I am currently a ninth-grader at OPRF High School. On March 21, I had the privilege of speaking before the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees on an issue I am passionate about, which I believe would benefit the village, that being the issue of raising the purchase age for tobacco products in Oak Park. 

I believe Oak Park should take the lead on raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21 to protect the health and future of Oak Park youth. All around the country, states such as Hawaii and cities like Chicago; Berkeley, California; and New York City have raised the age to buy tobacco products to 21 and many other cities have begun to discuss the idea of raising the buying age. This is proof that Oak Park must work to be at the forefront of youth health in the region and nationally. 

There is no need to bring up the undeniable facts and figures that prove smoking is awful for people, especially for people under the age of 21, who jeopardize their health and that of others by using tobacco. It is awful to think that a high schooler at OPRF is able to buy and smoke cigarettes before class and think about cigarettes when they should be thinking about school and their future. The effects of tobacco go beyond the lungs and can ruin a young adult’s life with addiction. 

I believe we can curb this proactively by raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21.  I am very pro-business and yet I am passionate about this because I believe it would help out the local business of Oak Park and at the same time help our health. 

I know that we want to promote and attract all types of business to Oak Park. However I believe that when 18-year-olds are not spending $10 on cigarettes, they are buying movie tickets at the Lake Theatre or ice cream at Hole in the Wall. By raising the tobacco purchase age, we help the economy of our village businesses instead of the businesses of the tobacco companies. 

I hope that Oak Parkers and the village board will join me and work with me on my crusade against tobacco. If the village can craft a plan to raise the cigarette buying age to 21, then we open up a door of health and opportunity to the current and next generation of Oak Parkers.

Charlie Lemke-Bell

OPRF High School ninth-grader, advocate for youth health

Join the discussion on social media!