An Illinois lawmaker has introduced a measure to raise the
legal age to purchase and consume tobacco products. Senate Bill 2332, if passed,
would raise the current legal smoking age to 21 from 18 statewide.
According to the bill, items prohibited under the ban would include tobacco,
alternative nicotine products and electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes.” The
latter is defined by the bill to encompass “any electronic nicotine delivery
system, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, electronic
hookah, vape pen, or similar product or device.”
Filed Jan. 24 by state Sen. Julie A. Morrison, D-Deerfield, the initiative is
part of a nationwide movement known as “Tobacco 21.” This effort previously took
hold in Evanston, which raised the legal age of tobacco use to 21 in 2014. And
the city of Chicago adopted the measure citywide in 2016.
In September 2017, Lake County became the first governing body in Illinois to
implement the Tobacco 21 ordinance countywide.
The introduction of SB 2332 on the momentum of the Tobacco 21 movement might
suggest a smoking epidemic among young adults in Illinois. But data hint the
opposite is occurring.
[to top of second column]
Smoking has hit rock bottom in terms of
consumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, cigarette use per capita has fallen to a record low
nationwide, having declined by over 60 percent between 1965-2014.
This reflects trends in Illinois. The Land of Lincoln has the
second-lowest rate of adult cigarette consumption in the Midwest as
of 2017, according to the United Health Foundation, or UHF. Less
than 16 percent of Illinois adults smoked cigarettes as of 2017 –
down from a rate of nearly 21 percent in 2012.
This perhaps can explain why cigarette tax revenue in Illinois has
continually fallen short of projections, despite the fact that the
state boasts the fourth-highest cigarette tax in the Midwest.
Combined cigarette taxes at the federal, state, county and city
level make Chicago’s cigarette taxes the highest in the nation.
The nonpartisan Tax Foundation attributes the unreliability of
cigarette tax revenue in part to the overall decline in cigarette
use – a trend that long predates Illinois’ existing Tobacco 21
ordinances. UHF smoking data also show Missouri experiencing a drop
in regular smokers from 2012-2017, despite having the lowest
cigarette tax in the country.
With cigarette use falling out of public favor, it makes little
sense to commit time and resources to the enforcement of regulations
SB 2332 would impose.
Click here to respond to the editor about this article