Becoming ‘Tobacco 21’.
Illinois lawmakers move towards raising the legal age to buy tobacco, the bill passed in the Illinois Senate on a 39-16 vote.
“[The bill] protects our youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco problems,” said American Lung Association Senior Director of Advocacy Kathy Drea. “It protects them from future tobacco related diseases.”
SwedishAmerican pulmonologist Dr. Yaser Zeater believes raising the legal age to 21 will help decrease the number of young smokers that will become addicted.
“Number one cause for preventable death in the U.S.A, as we know, is smoking,” said Dr. Zeater. “According to statistics, 90% of adults who are smokers, they started at a age from 18-20.”
Over 30 municipalities in Illinois have already raised the age. In Chicago, teen smoking has dropped by 36% after the city passed the same law in 2016.
“Theoretically, starting early, makes addiction more likely to happen,” said Dr. Zeater. “If you prevent that start, it will make the addiction less likely to happen.”
Dr. Zeater says smoking is even more dangerous for minors because their lungs are not fully developed, adding this law isn’t just about those 18-to-20 year olds.
“Not only preventing a smoker between 18-21, you’re also preventing the minors from smoking under the age of 18,” said Dr. Zeater. “The source of those cigarettes for those guys, the young ones, are older brothers or friends who are 18-20.”
“What people don’t often understand is that the target age group for this bill is 14, 15, 16 and 17 year-olds,” said Drea. “This bill removes that 18 year old supplier.”
Those against the move say it strips away freedoms. If an adult at 18, they should be let to decide.
The bill is now on Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk for approval, he’s expected to sign it.