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Illinois Poised to Become 8th State to Raise Tobacco Age to 21

Illinois Poised to Become 8th State to Raise Tobacco Age to 21
March 14, 2019

UPDATE: Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Tobacco 21 bill into law on April 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Illinois is poised to become the eighth state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 as the state legislature approved the measure today and sent it to Governor J.B. Pritzker for his signature. In taking this bold step, Illinois will prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free. We applaud and thank the lawmakers who supported this legislation, especially Sen. Julie Morrison and Rep. Camille Lilly, along with dozens of cosponsors who helped get this measure across the finish line. Their efforts will help reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and further drive down tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.

Illinois’s action provides another major boost for the growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21. Tobacco 21 laws have been enacted by seven states – California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Massachusetts and Virginia – and at least 440 cities and counties.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. We also know that tobacco companies spend $9.4 billion a year – more than $1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products, much of it aimed at young people.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help counter the industry’s relentless efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. A 2015 report by the National Academy of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use kills over 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Illinois, tobacco kills 18,300 people and costs $5.5 billion in health care expenses each year. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.