County Raises Age To Purchase Tobacco To 21
Britton’s First Bill Applies To Unincorporated, Non-Home Rule Areas
By Tom Robb, Journal Political Editor| January 30, 2019
The first piece of legislation authored by Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton (D-14th), a former Glenview village trustee, baring the sale of tobacco products to those under the age of 21 in unincorporated areas and non-home rule municipalities, passed with a unanimous vote of commissioners Thursday.
“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,” Britton said in a written statement before Thursday’s meeting. “That’s why during my (county) 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.” Britton said the goal is to see legislation currently in Springfield, increasing the age to purchase tobacco, pass the general assembly and become law. He said although the legislation adopted Thursday only applies to unincorporated areas and non-home rule communities in Cook County, if the state fails to act, he may look to another part of the county code to raise the age for tobacco purchases to 21 in all communities, including home rule communities.
Britton said he understood the Illinois Retail Merchants Association opposed the legislation. He said neither he, nor his staff were contacted by that group or anyone else, including tobacco lobbyists or any retailer in his district or elsewhere to oppose the legislation.
Illinois Retail Merchants Association officials did not provide comment by press deadlines Monday.
Legislation at the county board is introduced in one meeting and sent to committee. In a second meeting of the full county board, commissioners vote to accept or reject committee reports, including legislation sent to those committees. By voting to accept committee reports, legislation within those reports becomes law. Britton’s tobacco legislation was cosponsored by Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-13th) who also represents parts of Glenview and Niles. Britton said similar legislation was introduced in the last legislative session that he wanted to complete and wanted to give legislators in Springfield a strong sign they should support a statewide ban.
“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 Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison (D-15th) who represents Elk Grove Village and Rolling Meadows.
“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,” Morrison continued. “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.” Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, who has made several attempts to ban the sale of tobacco outright in his community, and pushed a successful ordinance last year to raise the sale age to of tobacco 21, said he hopes the county’s legislation will encourage the Illinois General Assembly to pass bills currently in the House and Senate to increase the age to purchase tobacco to 21 statewide.
“Tobacco is the only product, when used as directly, guaranteed to harm you,” Johnson said. “Someday we’ll do the right thing, and ban cigarettes outright.”