In 2016, Oak Park’s village board unanimously passed an ordinance that increased the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21. Now, an Oak Park-raised state legislator is leading the effort to get the whole state caught up to what has grown into a nationwide movement. 

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Camille Y. Lilly (78th) that would raise the legal age of tobacco and e-cigarette purchases from 18 to 21 statewide passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly on May 30. It now heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk to be signed into law. 

If the measure, Senate Bill 2332, becomes law, it would make it a Class A misdemeanor for someone under 21 to try to buy tobacco products with a “false or forged identification card or to transfer, alter, or deface an identification card,” according to the law’s language. 

“This is a public health issue for our young children who need to be focused on doing the best they can in school and other extracurricular activities,” said Lilly in a recent statement. “Long-term health care needs to be taken into account because while we enjoy good health at a young age, lung cancer, respiratory issues and heart disease can be exacerbated through smoking.” 

Lilly’s proposal has the backing of the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society. 

Over the last decade, a wave of municipalities have adopted ordinances raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases — a movement prompted, in part, by the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation’s Tobacco 21 campaign. 

The foundation, which was established in 1996, “strives to reduce the terrible toll of smoking and tobacco use through a preventive effort,” according to its website. “The belief that tobacco use is a voluntary risk continually undertaken by smokers themselves is belied by the fact that virtually all nicotine use begins in adolescence when experimentation and risk-taking are part and parcel of normal development.” 

“I am glad my colleagues joined me … to make Illinois a national leader on public health and the well-being of our children,” said Lilly, whose district encompasses parts of Chicago’s West Side, Oak Park, River Grove, Elmwood Park, Franklin Park and Melrose Park. 

“We have the opportunity to join other state like California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon that have also enacted tobacco 21 laws, and I urge the governor to sign this immediately,” she said.


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