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.