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.


 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