New Legislation Aims to Reduce Youth Smoking Initiation

Statewide survey illustrates support for ‘tobacco 21’ bill

January 30, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Jan. 30, 2018 – Fewer young people in Illinois would start smoking under a proposal to raise the minimum age of tobacco sales from 18 to 21 years old. State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) and State Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Oak Park) introduced the legislation in Springfield today with the support of public health groups and community organizations.

“This bill will not only save lives but will also save the state money paid to treat smoking-related illnesses,” Morrison said. “I feel it is my responsibility and obligation to do what I can to keep tobacco out of the hands of young people. I’m confident that this bill will help us achieve that goal.”

Along with the bill’s introduction, the American Lung Association in Illinois unveiled survey results that revealed 65 percent of registered Illinois voters supported “tobacco 21” legislation. Support was consistent across the state, with nearly half of respondents (47 percent) saying they “strongly supported” the proposal. Fako Research and Strategies, Inc., of Lemont, Ill. conducted the survey, which was carried out between Jan. 11-17.

“Statistics show that 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21,” said Matt Maloney, director of health policy for Respiratory Health Association. "By raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21, Illinois will get tobacco out of schools and can reduce youth smoking initiation."

Currently, five states and 290 cities nationwide have “tobacco 21” laws, including these 14 localities in Illinois: Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Deerfield, Elk Grove, Evanston, Highland Park, Lake County, Lincolnshire, Maywood, Mundelein, Naperville, Oak Park, Naperville and Vernon Hills. According to the Institute of Medicine, implementing tobacco 21 policies nationwide could reduce youth smoking initiation by as much as 25 percent, decrease overall tobacco use by 12 percent and save millions in health care costs.

“The State of Illinois spends nearly $2 billion dollars every year treating Medicaid recipients with smoking-related diseases,” said Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy at the American Lung Association in Illinois. “Nonsmokers tend to think that smoking doesn’t affect them, but the costs of smoking affect all of us. The Illinois General Assembly should do everything possible to reduce both youth and adult smoking prevalence rates to lower health care costs related to tobacco use.”

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