Plan to increase smoking age to 21 stalls in Illinois House

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A plan to prohibit smoking for those under age 21 failed in the Illinois House Tuesday after meeting opposition from lawmakers calling it a governmental overreach.

The plan, which would ban under-21 sales of tobacco or related products including e-cigarettes or vaping materials, fell four votes short despite a strong lobbying campaign and Senate approval in April.

Rep. Camille Lilly, a Chicago Democrat, said her measure is meant to prevent teens from forming a deadly habit. She added it will save the state millions of dollars in long-term health care costs.

“You are not looking at the lives of our young people who are our future,” said Lilly, addressing opponents during a lengthy floor debate. “Addiction is not something we should be promoting in our country.”

Opponents said that 18-year-olds are adults and should be allowed to make their own decisions, especially since they’re already able to vote or join the military.

Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican, also noted that teens could easily cross state lines to purchase the product, which would mean the state loses out on potential tax revenue.

A group of middle and high school students from across Illinois lobbied in favor of the measure last month. Sophia Bacci, a freshman at Deerfield High School, said it’s not enough for opponents to say that people can make their own decisions.

“Cigarette use affects everybody whether you decide to participate or not,” she said. “I see a lot of influence from cigarettes all over school and this bill will help me and others live a happy, healthy life.”

Fourteen Illinois cities and counties, including Chicago, have already adopted local ordinances setting the age at 21.

Lilly used a procedure to allow her to recall the bill, but cast doubt on whether that would happen before Thursday’s scheduled adjournment.

The bill is SB2332 .