top of page


Updated: Jan 28, 2019


January 18, 2019


Office of Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, 14th District

(312) 603-4932


Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton today announced a new County Ordinance to raise the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21 years old. The proposed ordinance will be voted on by the Cook County Board during the January Board Meeting next week.

The proposed ordinance, co-sponsored by Commissioner Britton and Commissioner Larry Suffredin, amends the current tobacco sales law to prohibit the sale and distribution of tobacco products to those under the age of 21. Further, it updates the definition of tobacco products to include all forms of consumables derived from tobacco, ranging from leaf to liquid and combustible to aerosolized.

“Now is the time to step up our fight against Big Tobacco and ensure the next generation of youth is our first smoke-free generation,” said Commissioner Britton. “That’s why during my first Board Meeting, I co-sponsored legislation to change the purchasing age for tobacco products, including cigarettes and vapes, to 21. The health of our youth cannot wait.”

“Raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 will improve overall health in the County and lead to significant health care savings,” Commissioner John Daley. “I commend Commission Britton for introducing this important ordinance.”

“I personally started smoking as a teenager, and over the years I have struggled with kicking the habit and relapse. I would not have begun smoking in the first place had they not been provided to me as a 15-year-old by my elder classmates,” said Commissioner Kevin Morrison. “I regret every day the first time I picked up a cigarette and I firmly believe we must do whatever we can to see that tobacco and nicotine products stay out of the hands of our youth. Raising the minimum age of purchase to 21 will make it far more difficult for Middle School and High School students from acquiring and becoming addicted to nicotine products. All concerned with public health should see this as a priority.”

Recognizing that 95 percent of adults who smoke started the addiction before the age of 21, these reforms are intended to protect the health of young people who are more vulnerable to the targeted marketing that lures them into a lifetime of tobacco addiction. A Center for Disease Control study showed that nine out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18. According to another National Youth Tobacco Survey, current e-cigarette use by High School students increased 78 percent from 2017 to 2018.

“As we know, tobacco is highly addictive and leads to a long list of diseases, including cancer,” said Shana Crews, Illinois government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “But studies have shown that if kids don’t begin smoking before age 21, they’re less likely to pick up a cigarette later in life. We’re thankful that Cook County is prioritizing youth health and making their community a better place to live.”

“Each year tobacco use costs Illinois $1.9 billion in Medicaid spending alone,” said President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association Joel J. Africk. “Increasing the minimum purchase age to 21 would reduce the economic burden of tobacco use and build a healthier, more sustainable future for all our communities.”

“The use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, sets our children up for a lifetime of chronic health issues, including heart disease, cancer and lung disease,” said Dr. Bradley Marino, president of the American Heart Association’s Metro Chicago Board of Directors and cardiologist at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. “When we increase the age to purchase tobacco, we decrease our children's access to these products and help save them from the hazards of addiction. Thank you to Commissioners Britton and Suffredin for your leadership on this important issue.”

"We know the health risks caused by smoking and vaping tobacco products, especially among vulnerable youth," said Dr. Robert Winn, Director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center. "It is vital that we take action and make smart public policy decisions to protect the health of our children and communities."

“The American Lung Association is a research-based organization and supports raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21, not because it sounds like a good idea, but because research shows that it dramatically decreases youth tobacco use. In fact, after Chicago passed this legislation, the city saw a 36 percent decrease in tobacco use in young adults. We urge the Cook County Board to vote in favor of this ordinance as raising the purchasing age can prevent young people from ever starting to use tobacco and ultimately save teens from the death and disease associated with tobacco use,” said Kathy Drea, for the American Lung Association.

“Limiting access in the younger age groups to these addictive substances is critical to mitigating future habits,” explained President of the American College of Chest Physicians, Clayton T. Cowl, MD, MS, FCCP. “Medical research has noted direct correlations to early use of tobacco and future development of lung cancer, heart disease, COPD and strokes.”

“We have seen a dramatic increase in teens regularly using tobacco/vaping products in Wheeling Township,” said Jorie Ouimet, Prevention Specialist for Link Together Coalition. “According to the CDC, nearly nine out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18. Each day in the United States, more than 3,200 youth aged 18 years or younger smoke their first cigarette, and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily cigarette smokers. Reducing access to these products will assist with preventing early teen use and addiction.”

“According to Tobacco Free Kids, 80% of those who begin smoking as a youth will continue into adulthood because of the powerful effects of nicotine,” said Penni Raphaelson, coalition coordinator for the Glenview Northbrook Youth Coalition. “A study done by Kota D. Robinson SE & Imad Damaj M.D. shows that adolescents are more susceptible to nicotine dependence than adults. We have seen an increase in teens using tobacco/vaping products in Glenview & Northbrook and this appears to be caused by the popularity of vaping and e-cigarettes.”

"Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are known to contribute or cause multiple health issues. As Tobacco 21 has been shown to help prevent the next generation of adult smokers – cutting adult smoking rates by 12 percent – Advocate Health Care supports all T21 efforts," said Advocate Health Care.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death. The Respiratory Health Association estimates that each year tobacco use costs Illinois $1.9 billion in Medicaid spending alone.

As nearly half (48.8%) of all enlisted military members are younger than 25, tobacco companies have a long history of marketing to members of the Armed Forces. A 2016 Department of Defense (DoD) study found that 38 percent of current smokers in the military began smoking after joining. As a result of the physical and fiscal strain this causes for national defense, the DoD set a goal to reduce tobacco use in the Armed Forces and implement tobacco-free military bases around the world by 2020. Tobacco use is already banned during basic training.

Three out of four American adults — including seven in 10 cigarette smokers — favor hiking the minimum age to 21, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If this Ordinance were to pass, Cook County would join 430 localities across the country, including 34 municipalities and counties in Illinois, as well as California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine and Massachusetts in recognizing the public health benefits of raising the tobacco-buying age to 21.

Recognizing the importance of supporting residents with options to quit smoking, the ordinance specifically excludes any product that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration as a cessation product.


Recent Posts

See All

Cook County Protects Fertility Freedom

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 29, 2024 CONTACT Liz Polmanski, Deputy Chief of Staff (312) 603-4932 COOK COUNTY PROTECTS FERTILITY FREEDOM Commissioner Scott Britton Lea


bottom of page