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Morrison passes Tobacco 21, measure heads to the governor

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SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is one step closer to joining a growing list of states that have raised the age to legally purchase tobacco to 21 under a plan sponsored by State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) that passed the Senate today.

“Limiting the availability of tobacco products has a direct effect on smoking rates among young teenagers, especially those who are 14, 15, 16 or 17 years old,” Morrison said. “The more we limit the availability of tobacco for teens, the lower the chance they have of developing a lifetime addiction that disproportionally affects the adolescent brain and costs state government billions of dollars annually.”

Morrison’s proposal, contained in House Bill 345, would make Illinois the eighth state to pass Tobacco 21 legislation. More than 400 localities across the nation have already raised the age, including 34 jurisdictions in Illinois. Chicago, Highland Park, Buffalo Grove, Evanston and Peoria are a few of the cities in Illinois, both small and large, to raise the age.

A key benefit to raising the age is documented decreases in the number of high schoolers who smoke. In Chicago, authorities recorded a drop from 13.6 percent in 2011 to 6 percent in 2017. Raising the age was cited as a key component of the decrease.

Morrison teamed with health advocates and local Lake County students last January to increase support among lawmakers for the proposal. After passing the Senate in April, the measure passed the House in May but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August.

“With the rise of easily concealable and fruit and candy flavored tobacco products, Tobacco 21 is important now more than ever—protecting children, reducing smoking rates, saving lives and reducing healthcare costs,” said Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association.

House Bill 345 passed the Senate this afternoon and will now head to the governor for his approval.

Sen. Morrison’s colleagues made the following statements on the passage of Tobacco 21:

State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-19): “More than 90 percent of smokers pick up smoking before the age of 21. This new law will help us curb teen tobacco use and help save lives.”

State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago): “Tobacco companies have a long track record of targeting young people, particularly in the neighborhoods I represent. This bill will be major win in protecting teenagers from a dangerous and potentially lifelong addiction.”

State Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights): “The medical evidence is clear and irrefutable: smoking imperils the health of children and young adults. The sooner we implement this law, the fewer children we’ll see on the path to long-term smoking and the life-altering medical consequences that come with that choice.”

State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago): “The tobacco industry’s long history of targeting young people has shown that they’re willing to sacrifice teenagers’ health to line their own pockets.”

State Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon): “As a mother of two young children, it’s a no-brainer for me to support this legislation to prevent more youth from starting to smoke. By restricting a teenager’s access to tobacco, we’re working to keep it out of high schools while limiting the billions of dollars the state spends annually on health care.”

State Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview): “Smoking and the general use of tobacco products is an addictive and dangerous habit. For most people, it’s not a matter of if you get cancer, it’s a matter of when. By increasing the age at which people can legally access these products, studies show that people will be less likely to take up smoking in the first place.”

State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago): “It’s past time for Illinois to do what it can to protect our youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, from a lifetime struggling with chronic disease, and from a lifetime cut short because of tobacco. Tobacco 21 in Illinois is sound policy and common sense, saves lives and dollars and is overwhelmingly supported by Illinoisans.”

State Senator Terry Link (D-Indian Creek): “With the rise in e-cigarette use among teenagers, it is past time we act to reduce tobacco use among our young population. Since most current adult smokers started in their teens, raising the age will curb the next generation of adult smokers and save lives.”