Bill to raise smoking age to 21 again passes the Illinois House

CARBONDALE, IL — Would raising the legal age for buying tobacco products reduce the number of young people who smoke? That’s what an Illinois bill aims to do.

Pablo Kenner said he started smoking at 13 because a lot of people in his family were smokers. He said other kids shouldn’t follow that path.

“It’s a habit that I wish nobody would get,” said Kenner.

Kenner said most of his family died from cancer because of tobacco use. Regional Tobacco Program Coordinator Tiara Brown said that outcome is all too common.

“Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths,” said Brown.

The bill would also raise the age of vaping to 21. Kenner said he doesn’t support people vaping at any age. “All that chemicals that they use in that stuff, you don’t know what the chemicals are going to do,” said Kenner.

Each year, 4,800 kids under 18 in Illinois become new daily smokers. Brown said the goal of the bill is to reduce that number.

“If we can push that age to 21, many people believe that three-year gap won’t do much, but it can further along that they will never start smoking,”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 3 out of 4 adults favor making 21 the minimum age of sale for tobacco.

Kenner said he supports raising the age of smoking to 21, and if that doesn’t work, he thinks the cost will.  “If they keep raising the prices on cigarettes, everybody’s going to quit,” said Kenner.

The Illinois general assembly passed the same bill last year, but Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it. The measure now moves to the state Senate for a vote. If it passes there again, it will reach the desk of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.