Together We Made Strides toward Cleaner Air

RHA has worked for decades to reduce pollution from industrial sources like power plants and the millions of vehicles operating in Illinois.  This spring, your advocacy visits, emails and phone calls led to substantial victories for clean air. We also gained ground on important policies we’ll continue to advance next session.

 

Clean Energy Jobs Act Continues to Build Momentum

The ambitious Clean Energy Jobs bill continues to gain momentum with 49 co-sponsors in the House and 27 in the Senate by the end of May – with many joining as co-sponsors after RHA’s Lung Health Education Day in March.

The bill would ensure all electricity comes from non-carbon sources by 2030 (no fossil fuels) and all electricity comes from clean renewable sources by 2050; that the benefits of clean energy development from this transition are distributed equitably; and that efforts to electrify transportation remove the emissions equivalent of a million cars from the air people breathe.

RHA will continue to build on this momentum until the General Assembly comes back to Springfield in October.

 

Long-Standing Prohibition on State Action to Address Climate Crisis is Repealed

Legislation passed this session will remove a law passed 20 years ago that prohibited Illinois from enacting any policies to reduce greenhouse gases and tackle the climate crisis. The vote reflects that the state legislature increasingly sees an unstable climate as a health threat, especially for vulnerable people and those living with chronic medical conditions.

Removing this restriction means Illinois can now forge a more effective climate strategy and implement stronger greenhouse gas reduction policies, which will help expand clean renewable energy resources and reduce ozone smog. As the Sun-Times noted, Illinois could now even require tighter pollution limits for cars.

 

Clean Energy – Clean Air Victories in State Budget and Capital Spending Plan

The new state budget and capital plan passed this spring included several provisions to reduce emissions from electricity generation and transportation. Some harmful ideas were prevented as well.

Early versions of the capital plan included a $1000/year registration fee for any electric vehicles (EVs), which would have been a serious blow to the small but quickly growing market in Illinois just as more affordable EVs are beginning to show up at dealerships. In the end, zero-emission EV registration fees were raised to the same level as fossil fuel-powered vehicles and an extra $100/year fee was assessed since EV don’t contribute to state gasoline taxes. While this eliminated discounted registration fees for EVs, one of the very few incentives Illinois had to encourage people to by zero-emission vehicles, it also means EV fees are only a quarter of what was initially proposed.  Electric vehicles will still save drivers hundreds of dollars a year on gasoline not bought, and help reduce smog and greenhouse gas pollution!

 

Other victories this year in the state budget:

  • $50 million for the Renewable Energy Resources Fund. This supports the Illinois Solar for All program, which prioritizes new solar electric generation projects and solar job training in low-income communities.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for state facilities. This is sufficient funding to reduce 5% of state building energy usage, which will lower power demand and air pollution.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan to construct electric vehicle charging infrastructure in low income communities, helping ensure all communities can use electric vehicles.
  • $20 million is re-appropriated and another $60 million is appropriated from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement fund. Illinois EPA can now spend $80m on electric vehicle projects in the coming year that help reduce emissions from transportation sources to clean the air.

 

Together we’ve made great strides toward cleaner air, healthier lungs and a more sustainable future.

If you’d like to get move involved in Respiratory Health Association’s advocacy work, become an Advocacy Champion today.

10 steps we’ve taken together to prevent lung disease & promote clean air

It’s the end of our program year, and we want to share some of the ways your support helped our work preventing lung disease and promoting clean air. These are just a few of the ways we were able to give back to our communities in Chicago, Illinois and across the country over the last year.

Women’s Lung Health

We re-launched our Catch Your Breath® campaign to raise awareness and funds for women’s lung health research. One out of every six women in the U.S. lives with chronic lung disease. Through a partnership with Jewelry Television, we reached millions of people and raised funds to address lung disease.

Tobacco 21 Becomes Law

Raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 protects kids, saves lives and saves money. After a veto last year, RHA volunteers, board members and event participants doubled down to ensure Illinois lawmakers again passed Tobacco 21 legislation. This April, the Governor signed the bill into law.

Caring for COPD Caregivers

As a part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Learn More Breathe Better Campaign to empower COPD patients, RHA studied the usefulness of our COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit among caregivers in four Midwestern states. Between 80-90% of participants found the Toolkit to be relevant, understandable and would recommend it to another caregiver.

RHA Associates Board Grows

Part of our commitment to creating a better future includes shaping future leaders in the lung health community. This year we welcomed several new members to the Associates Board where members network, learn about volunteer leadership and have access to professional development opportunities while supporting RHA’s mission. Do you know a promising young professional looking for volunteer leadership experience? Nominate a new AB member. 

Training Educators for Asthma Emergencies

RHA’s online training in emergency asthma response reached more than 9,500 school staff. The results are in: after the training, over 90% of staff & teachers were able to identify a child having difficulty with asthma, knew how to help students avoid asthma triggers and knew how to respond to an asthma emergency.

Next Generation Advocates at RHA's 2018 volunteer recognition night

Next Generation Advocates

RHA has a secret weapon behind our recent advocacy successes – youth advocates. From third graders at Chicago’s Village Leadership Academy to RHA event participants, young people are raising their voices to help build a future free of lung disease—all while learning about local government and the value of civic engagement.

Supporting Providers, Supporting Patients

RHA’s Counsel to Quit® brief tobacco intervention training reached over 500 healthcare providers. Outcomes were published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment and showed that our program gave providers greater confidence in their ability to help smokers and to answer questions about the use of e-cigarettes.

Kicking the Habit

Through our City-funded Chicago Quits program, an initiative helping high-risk adults quit smoking, RHA delivered the Courage to Quit® smoking cessation program to nearly 500 program participants with a 27% quit rate among program completers, compared to 5% when people try to quit smoking cold turkey.

Improving Lung Cancer Outcomes

Dr. Kevin Haas used RHA research funding to study educational lung cancer screening resources. He determined current online information was written at a reading level many patients couldn’t understand and set out to make clear materials that help all patients realize the benefits of lung cancer screening.

Bringing Clean Energy to Chicago

RHA worked with the Chicago City Council to pass a resolution for Chicago to use 100% clean, renewable power in all buildings in the city by 2035. It also sets a 2040 deadline for using electric buses in the entire CTA fleet, and we are currently working with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to reach this goal even sooner.

Your support made these and other lung health victories possible. Thank you. 

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates like these throughout the year.

23rd Annual CowaLUNGa Takes Place August 3-5, 2019

Registration for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 is now open! Escape the noise of the city for a weekend and explore the scenic Midwest as you bike through northern Illinois into southern Wisconsin.

About CowaLUNGa 2019 Charity Bike Tour

Along the way, you’ll experience an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support from other cyclists and Respiratory Health Association, while helping RHA achieve its vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

This is RHA’s 23rd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Choose to ride 18 or 65 miles in one day, 130 miles in two days or 190 miles over three days.

What’s Included When you Register?

All routes are one-way with free return transportation back to the start line and include full SAG and medical support; two daily rest stops; breakfast and dinner. Free overnight parking is available onsite at Gurnee Mills for the event’s duration.

Two and three-day riders (130 & 190 mile routes) also receive comfortable, indoor housing accommodations.

Saturday night is spent at the newly-remodeled Conference Point Center (CPC) on the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva. CPC has 5 stars on Facebook and 4.5 stars on Google reviews!

Sunset over Lake Geneva from Conference Point Center in William's Bay Wisconsin A bedroom at Conference Point Center - Night one of Cowalunga 2019 Living area of a cabin at Conference Point Center Conference Point Center grounds during CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

Sunday night is CowaLUNGa’s college throw back night at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Prop those dorm doors open and relive those carefree campus days, complete with games and entertainment in the UWW Student Center.

Dorms at University of Wisconsin WhitewaterUniversity of Wisconsin Whitewater Campus FountainCowaLUNGa entertainment at UWW Student Center

Read more about housing, logistics and other event details here.

Additionally, every participant receives an event shirt and a finisher’s medal at the end of the route to commemorate the bike ride!

CowaLUNGa 2019 Costs & Deadlines

Registration fees and fundraising minimums vary by mileage. Early bird registration discounts are available until June 15.  First-time riders that select two or three day routes receive 50% off registration. Call 312-628-0200 for more information on or to register with our first-time rider discount.

 

CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 Registration fees chart

For more details, see Costs & Deadlines.

Funds raised support RHA’s programs:

 

Still thinking it over? Sign up for CowaLUNGa email updates.

Ready to ride CowaLUNGa 2019? Start your journey!

Nestor’s Giving Cancer a Run for Its Money

Before January 2018, Nestor Rivera had never even run a 5k. Now, less than two years later, he plans to run the Chicago Marathon with Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team.

“You’d be amazed at what you can train your body to do,” Nestor says. “If you’re just consistent – not perfect – consistent.”

Nestor Rivera running a race

Nestor Rivera is going from couch to marathon in 2 years!

Nestor chose the Lung Power Team because of its mission to fight lung disease. His parents were in their teens when they began smoking. He recalls that his parents were chain smokers from the time he was born to the time he was 9 years old. As a child, he recognized them only with a cigarette in their hand.

But when his sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 21, they feared the possibility that their secondhand smoke had been a contributing factor in the development of her illness. They quit smoking right then. Then in 2013, Nestor’s mother Milagros went in for a lung biopsy to explore an unusual spot  found during tests. After the biopsy, Nestor got a call that he describes as “absolutely earth-shattering.”

“You think you’re going to get a phone call that says everything has gone routinely. Next thing you know, I got word that one third of her lung is gone.”

Nestor’s mother was diagnosed with stage one lung cancer and had a third of her right lung resected on the very same day. Immediately after the surgery Milagros’ breathing was different, but over time she settled into a new normal. Nestor says she’s now feeling great, and as of a few weeks ago, Milagros has been in remission for almost six years. “It’s amazing what your body can tolerate,” Nestor says.

 

Nestor Rivera with his parents in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Nestor Rivera is running the Chicago marathon in honor of his mother, a lung cancer survivor.

 

His mother’s diagnosis made a huge impact on Nestor and was part of what spurred him to take up running. He’d never been a smoker, but he began to consider – what are other actions could he take to improve his overall health? Since his first race, the Chicago Cubs Race to Wrigley, Nestor has completed eleven more 5k races, two 10ks and a half marathon. He has three more half marathons on the docket for 2019 before running with the Lung Power Team in the fall.

“If there’s a challenge, I’m gonna take it,” Nestor says. “All you really need are a good pair of shoes. It’s not about getting the best time. It’s about achieving things that you didn’t think were possible.”

Nestor’s fundraising has now hit $3,016.20, putting him in first place towards the Lung Power Team’s $42,000 goal. His advice to fellow fundraisers?

Personalize the message.

In addition to his mother’s story, he also shares that his father-in-law has had chronic asthma his entire life. Nestor runs for him, too.

“When I’ve reached out to people individually, I’ve gotten more results,” he says. One challenge Nestor says he faces is that donors don’t feel they can contribute enough. “Some [people] think it’s better not to donate than to donate less than $100, but that’s not true. Every bit counts.” He notes how important it is to make every person feel like their donation makes a difference, no matter the amount.

His final note for fundraising matches his advice for training:

“Persistence.”

To help Nestor and his family fundraise for lung cancer research, asthma, and Tobacco 21, visit Nestor’s fundraising page.

Statement Applauding Signing of Statewide Tobacco 21 Law

April 7, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Today Governor J.B. Pritzker made an important stride toward a healthier future for Illinois as he signed a bill into law that raises the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21 years old. Special thanks to Rep. Camille Lilly who sponsored the bill and Senator Julie Morrison who championed the statewide “Tobacco 21” legislation.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work is to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Tobacco 21 laws, like other laws inspired by public health, save thousands of lives a year.  Tobacco 21 in Illinois will reduce youth smoking and, as a result, mean fewer adult smokers, too,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. “Ultimately the new law will save more lives than Alcohol 21 and most other public health measures like it.”

Tobacco 21 will yield significant health and economic benefits.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

The new law has been strongly supported by a number youth advocates who joined RHA on advocacy visits and testified at local hearings. “I lost my dad in 2015 when I was 10 to lung disease and lung cancer,” says 14-year-old Ian Piet of Tinley Park. “Because of that, I am supporting tobacco 21 and other measures to help prevent lung disease.”

Respiratory Health Association estimates statewide Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois will save the lives of more than 24,000 children alive today who otherwise would have died from tobacco-related illness. In addition the policy will save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. A majority of adults in Illinois support the law. Growing support for Tobacco 21 led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover approximately 30 percent of the state’s population and paved the way for statewide action.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

RHA Calls for Congress to Maintain Tuberculosis Control Funding

Sunday, March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day

CHICAGO, IL – March 22 – On World Tuberculosis Day 2019 Respiratory Health Association, a community public health leader since 1906, is calling for Congress to maintain federal funding levels for tuberculosis prevention and control.

“We know from past experience that when funding decreases, tuberculosis cases increase and spread,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. “World Tuberculosis Day is an excellent reminder that we cannot afford to risk the health of our communities by reducing prevention and control funding.”

In 2018, the Chicago Department of Public Health reported 115 cases of tuberculosis –a contagious, airborne illness that impacts the lungs. This figure represents the lowest case count ever recorded. The 115 cases represent a 10 percent decrease over the 128 cases reported in 2017 and a nearly 31 percent reduction from the 166 cases reported in 2011.

“If not treated properly, tuberculosis can be a severe or deadly disease, highlighting the importance of detection, reporting and treatment efforts,” said CDPH Commissioner, Julie Morita MD.  “Sustained funding is necessary in order to protect all Chicago residents from infectious diseases like tuberculosis.”

The decline in cases is likely attributed to effective treatment and containment of new cases. Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria and often spreads when someone infected with the disease coughs or sneezes. Due to the highly contagious nature of tuberculosis, it is critical that every case is treated, contained and documented efficiently.

Respiratory Health Association applauds Chicago Department of Public Health’s work reducing the number of new tuberculosis cases and urges continued diligence.

In 1906, the year Respiratory Health Association was founded as the Chicago Tuberculosis Institute, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death in Chicago and nationally.

The rate of tuberculosis in the United States began to drop in the 1940s and 1950s, as effective treatments were developed, but the disease has continued to be a world health threat, particularly in less developed parts of the world and in the U.S. at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The World Health Organization reports that each year, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to tuberculosis and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.

Contact:

Erica Krutsch, Director of Marketing & Communications

Desk – 312-628-0225

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change.

RHA Staffers Hustle For The Mission

On February 24 more than 3,000 people came together in support of a future free of lung disease. A future with healthy lungs and clean air for all. The occasion? Hustle Chicago, RHA’s charity stair climb up 875 N. Michigan Ave., the building formerly called the John Hancock Center.

At RHA we don’t just serve our mission as part of our day jobs – almost every member of our staff participates in our events or volunteers personal time. And this year’s Hustle was no exception. The 2019 RHA Hustlers team brought 21 employees, friends and family together to go the extra mile (or 1,632 steps!) for lung health.

RHA Hustlers team photos at Hustle Chicago 2019

Why We Do What We Do

To share with you some of the passion the team brings to our mission, here’s a quote from RHA Hustlers team captain and RHA staffer, Lesli Vaughan.

“As many of you know, I work in tobacco cessation and prevention at RHA. Mainly that means I work to prevent teens and young adults from starting to smoke or use tobacco products and to help those who do smoke to be smoke free. It’s some of the most rewarding work I’ve done in my life.

There’s nothing quite like hearing someone who smoked multiple packs of cigarettes a day tell you how proud he is of himself because he is now smoke free for the first time in 40 years. Or see a high school student stand up in front of a room full of legislators to tell them why they should adopt a Tobacco 21 policy.

I always say I’m doing the easy work — it’s these people who do the hard stuff. I’m just there to support them.

Unfortunately, the tobacco industry has loads of money and they fight every single day to get more people hooked on cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

Despite their non-stop attempts, we can win this battle. But honestly, we need help to do it. As a small non-profit, we don’t have nearly as much money as the tobacco lobbyists that we fight against daily. Your support helps RHA reach new people with our Courage to Quit cessation program and educate more teens, lawmakers, and others about the dangers of tobacco.”

Together the team as raised over $17,000, but we’re still short of our overall fundraising goal for Hustle Chicago 2019.

 

You Can Make a Difference

Thanks to an anonymous donor, all fundraising campaigns in 2019 lead by RHA staff are generously matched $2 for every $1 raised. This effectively triples all gifts given to RHA staff campaigns!

If you’d like to support Respiratory Health Association’s work toward a future free of lung cancer, asthma and COPD and want to see your gift go three times further, donate to one of our RHA Hustlers today.

Joel Africk

Avanthi Chatrathi

Adrienne Hiegel

Mary Rosenwinkel

Magda Slowik

Brian Urbaszewski

Lesli Vaughan

Joann Wong

The Hustle Chicago fundraising deadline is end of day TOMORROW Friday, March 15th.

Illinois Becomes 8th State in the U.S. to Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

For Immediate Release:

March 14, 2019

Contact: Erica Krutsch

Desk – 312-628-0225

Legislation Passes General Assembly, Awaits Governor Signature

CHICAGO – On Thursday, March 14, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to raise the tobacco purchase age across the state to 21 from 18. The bill passed the House on Tuesday, March 12 before moving on to the Senate Thursday where it passed with bipartisan support. The policy, often referred to as Tobacco 21, aims to reduce youth smoking by removing legal tobacco purchasers from teen social circles.

“We know that 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21. And we know that the tobacco industry actively targets young people,” said Joel Africk, president and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “Tobacco 21 will help keep cigarettes and vaping products out of our schools and give our children the chance to live healthier lives.”

Growing support for Tobacco 21 had previously led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws covered approximately 30 percent of the state’s population. A recent study, conducted by Fako and Associates, showed that two out of three adults in Illinois support Tobacco 21, a figure that is even higher among current and former smokers.

Each year tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity, according to research from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. RHA estimates that the law would save Illinois $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses. Additionally, the Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

RHA would like to thank Senator Julie Morrison for her role as the lead senate sponsor and Representative Camille Lilly for her role as the lead house sponsor.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. RHA looks forward to Governor Pritzker’s signing of the legislation.

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 Respiratory Health Association (RHA) works to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. RHA serves as Healthy Chicago’s community co-leader for tobacco control and offers evidence-based tobacco control strategies and smoking cessation programs throughout Illinois. Respiratory Health Association played a leading role in the passage of Smoke-Free Illinois and has been a strong advocate for statewide adoption of Tobacco 21 in Illinois. To learn more, visit www.resphealth.org.

Over 30 advocates travel to Springfield for State Lung Health Education Day

With each visit, email, and phone call, dedicated individuals are creating change. Every step is a move toward a healthier, cleaner future.

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) staff and lung health advocates traveled to the Illinois State Capitol for State Lung Health Education Day, RHA’s annual statewide advocacy event.

Over 30 constituents met with House and Senate legislators to support this year’s top policy priorities:

  • Tobacco 21
  • Clean Energy Jobs Act
  • Allow communities to ban the use of coal tar pavement sealants
  • Encourage the use of electric power vehicles
  • Increase the tax on cigarettes and taxing e-cigarettes

Constituents met with the following representatives and senators:

  • Costello
  • Davis
  • Durkin
  • Evans
  • Feigenholtz
  • Gabel
  • Gong-Gershowitz
  • Guzzardi
  • Harmon
  • Hernandez
  • Hurley
  • Kalish
  • Mussman
  • Ortiz
  • Slaughter
  • Smith
  • Tarver
  • Walker
  • Walsh
  • Welch
  • Williams
  • Yingling
  • Bush
  • Cullerton
  • Cunningham
  • Curran
  • Fine
  • Glowiak
  • Harris
  • Hastings
  • Hunter
  • Koehler
  • Landek
  • McClure
  • Mulroe
  • Murphy
  • Peters
  • Sims

During the visits, advocates thanked these legislators for supporting #Tobacco21 and informed them about other bills to support to continue furthering Illinois’ lung health including smoke-free initiatives, cleaning up the air, and including e-cigarettes and vaping products in the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

Tobacco 21 aims to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 in Illinois. This will save lives by reducing the number of new smokers and smoking-related illness.  95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21, so this is a crucial time for prevention. For the economy, Tobacco 21 will also save on medical costs and lost productivity.

Group of volunteer advocates in the Illinois state capital building

RHA Lung Health Advocates in Springfield on March 6, 2019.

RHA Advocacy Wins

For over 110 years, RHA has been committed to effecting change through lung disease research, education and advocacy, and they have multiple previous successes:

  • Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication, a law that permits schools to keep rescue asthma medication, such as albuterol, and allows trained school staff and nurses to administer the medication.
  • Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, an innovative clean energy law that vitalizes Illinois’ economy by creating energy efficient programs, funding renewable energy, and producing thousands of energy efficient jobs.
  • Smoke Free Illinois Act, a law that prohibits smoking cigarettes in public spaces, including schools, offices, retail stores, and restaurants.

Did you miss State Lung Health Education Day?

Don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities to be a lung health advocate! Join our E-Advocacy Team to support lung health at the municipal, state, and national levels. RHA offers plenty of opportunities to connect with your representatives through email, phone, and in person. Next year, everyone signed up as an e-advocate will receive updates about State Lung Health Education Day 2020.

Statement Applauding Illinois House’s Passage of Tobacco 21

March 12, 2019

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) congratulates the Illinois House on the passage of HB345, a statewide “Tobacco 21” bill that raises the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21. The House passed the legislation today 82-31. Special thanks to Rep. Camille Lilly who sponsored the bill.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work is to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Too many kids are exposed to tobacco products in their teenage years,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “If we can keep kids away from tobacco until they’re 21, they’re far less likely to become addicted and can live healthier lives.”

Tobacco 21 will yield significant health and economic benefits.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

“We estimate statewide Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois will save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses,” continued Africk.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. A majority of adults in Illinois support the measure. Growing support for Tobacco 21 led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover approximately 30 percent of the state’s population and paved the way for statewide action.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country.