Illinois first Midwest state to raise tobacco, e-cigarette buying age to 21

CHICAGO — Illinois became the first state in the Midwest to raise the legal age for sales of tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21 after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the measure into law Sunday in Chicago.

Starting July 1, smoke shops across Illinois will have to change their signage and check IDs to make sure anyone who’s buying tobacco products is 21 years old.

The governor was joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, lawmakers and dozens of advocates as he signed the bill, touting the move as an historic step to improve public health.

“We’re dealing with an old problem in a new form," Pritzker said.

Its signing caps a four-year effort to pass the measure against the will of the tobacco industry and mostly Republican opposition. Former governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year.

Mayor Emanuel says his goal is to stop another generation from becoming addicted to tobacco products, saying the products are marketed and sold to young people.

“Three years ago, when e-cigarettes got introduced they would tell you it was about quitting, now we learn it’s been marketed to kids, you do not call a product Jolly Ranch and Froot Loops if its about quitting," Emanuel said.

Illinois is now the eighth state in the nation (and the first state in the Midwest) to have a so-called Tobacco 21 law on the books.

“I just have one message to the tobacco companies: our kids are not part of your profit margin. Keep your hands off of them,” Mayor Emanuel said.

Pritzker says the measure is necessary because the popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping are drawing teens to addiction.

“Many are risking a lifetime of addiction before being able to make an informed choice, more than 80 percent of adult smokers smoked their first cigarette before they turned 18,” Pritzker said.

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