ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Starting this July, smoke shops, gas stations, grocery stores, and other retailers in the Land of Lincoln will no longer be legally allowed to sell tobacco products to customers under the age of 21.
Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the measure into law on Sunday afternoon during a press conference from Chicago. He called the regulation “common sense” and urged surrounding states to follow Illinois’ lead.
“Many are risking a lifetime addiction before being able to make an informed choice,” Pritzker said. More than 80 percent of adult smokers smoked their first cigarette before they turned 18.”
Illinois will become the ninth state nationwide — and the first state in the Midwest — to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21.
In a show of bipartisanship, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) echoed the Governor’s public health concerns at the Sunday press conference.
“It’s an epidemic amongst teenagers and youths and we need to do something about it,” Durkin said.
“You know, in the past, Tobacco 21 has been a partisan issue, a Democrat issue,” he said. “It isn’t anymore. I was glad to not only support the bill, but secure a good number of Republican votes to secure its passage. That was the right thing to do as a legislator and as a parent.”
Former Republican Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year, calling it a burdensome regulation on small business.
The new law will also remove penalties for underage smokers caught with tobacco products, and shift that penalty onto the retailer.