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.

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.

RHA Statement on E-Cigarettes & Vaping Products

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Electronic Cigarettes & Vaping Products

As conventional cigarette use in the United States has declined, electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use rates have continued to climb, particularly among youth. Vaping devices, such as the widely popularized Juul, have become a mainstay in places of education, with 42.2 percent of U.S. high school students having used an e-cigarette. Recent data show that U.S. youth e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent in 2018, prompting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb to declare youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic”.

The increased use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices by youth poses a grave public health concern. These products are unregulated and contain at least 60 different chemical compounds, some of which are known to be toxic, carcinogenic and linked to cardiac disease. E-cigarette vapor is not just water vapor. E-cigarettes have not been proven safe—especially for young people. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can negatively impact brain development and cognition and can serve as a gateway to conventional tobacco use. E-cigarette use is also associated with an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

Studies show that flavored tobacco products serve as starter products for many smokers, which lead to nicotine addiction and can serve as a gateway to traditional tobacco use. According to data from 2013-2014, 4 out of 5 youth who are current tobacco users started by using a flavored product. Flavors can also alter youth perception of the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (which come in over 15,000 flavors), which results in increased use of these products.

E-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved tobacco cessation product. Although a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes are more effective in smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, the results are not generalizable. The study was conducted in the United Kingdom with different e-cigarette products than those offered in the U.S., and the treatment included intensive behavioral support. In addition, it is difficult to assign a standard risk-reduction label to all e-cigarette products because they are not currently regulated, and the array of available e-cigarette products and technologies can vary so much. The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are still not known, and the study did not address the dangers of nicotine addiction. At the conclusion of the study, 80 percent of those in the e-cigarette treatment group were still using e-cigarettes, compared with 9 percent of those in the nicotine-replacement group still using nicotine replacement. In the U.S., more than half of all e-cigarette users aged 25 and older are also current cigarette smokers.

Respiratory Health Association is committed to taking action to reduce the toll of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on our communities, including:

  • Raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, from 18 to 21
  • Adding e-cigarettes to existing smoke-free laws
  • Clarifying definitions of tobacco to include e-cigarette and vaping products
  • Licensing tobacco and e-cigarette retailers
  • Restricting the sales of flavored tobacco and vape products
  • Raising the tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products

RHA Statement on Governor Rauner’s Veto of Tobacco 21

On Friday, August 24, 2018, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 2332, legislation that would have substantially reduced youth smoking and saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars in future health care costs by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is incredibly disappointed in Governor Rauner’s decision to veto this legislation after it passed the Illinois General Assembly.  The bill is also supported by a majority of Illinois residents. 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.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work has been to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. At this point, 26 communities across the state have adopted local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover more than 30 percent of the state’s population and will remain in full force and effect.

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 would have helped keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Too many kids are being 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 also would have yielded 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. RHA estimates that in Illinois alone the law would save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses.

“Respiratory Health Association is undeterred.  We will continue to fight to protect kids across Illinois from smoking and tobacco addiction in the next legislative session. Tobacco 21 is the right thing to do,” continued Africk.

To date five states – California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon – and hundreds of municipalities around the US have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21.

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 Chicago 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.