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Senate President says governor missed chance on long-term health care savings

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SPRINGFIELD — Every year, state taxpayers pay millions of dollars in health care costs related to smoking. The best way to cut back on those expenses is to discourage people from ever smoking in the first place.

That was the point behind legislation lawmakers approved earlier this year to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco and vaping products to 21. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said Gov. Bruce Rauner missed that point in vetoing the proposal.

“It is rare that you have the opportunity to cast a vote and save lives. That’s what Tobacco 21 would have done. Preventing children and young adults from smoking is the best way to reduce smoking and the health care costs that come with addiction. I don’t know how the governor could veto that,” said Cullerton, a supporter of the legislation.

Cullerton said he had personally reached out to Rauner to explain the legislation, the rationale behind it and encourage him to sign it into law. Unfortunately, Rauner vetoed it fearing a loss of customers to neighboring states and loss of sales tax revenue from minors buying tobacco products.