Illinois lawmakers to try again on Tobacco 21 bill

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SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) -- Lawmakers in the Illinois House and Senate plan to reintroduce a bill to raise the age for buying tobacco products to 21.

Both chambers passed a Tobacco 21 bill in 2018. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it because he said it wouldn't stop people from smoking. He said "raising the age people can purchase tobacco products will push residents to buy tobacco products from non-licensed vendors or in neighboring states.”

Advocates and lawmakers plan to bring the bill back Tuesday, making good on a pledge from the last session to continue the effort despite the setback.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said last summer after Rauner's veto that it was only a matter of time before the bill would become law. Lawmakers attempted to override Rauner's veto in the fall, but came up short on votes in the House.

Supporters have said raising the minimum age will prevent young adults from picking up the addictive habit and could reduce teen smoking by 25 percent. The American Lung Association in Illinois has said that almost 30 cities in Illinois, including Chicago, already have restrictions on tobacco use for those under 21 at the local level. Only a couple of municipalities outside of the Chicago area have adopted restrictions for tobacco use under the age of 21.

Some opponents had said the bill would do little to reduce smoking. Others said adults who have the freedom to vote, marry and join the military should be allowed to make decisions on buying tobacco.

The Illinois Department of Revenue previously projected that if the bill is signed into law, cigarette tax and sales tax receipts would fall by $41 to $48 million a year. Illinois collected about $745 million in cigarette taxes in 2018.

Six states – California, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey – have raised the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21, according to the American Lung Association.

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