Senate passes 'Tobacco 21' in veto session

Smoking. (File photo)

The Illinois Senate voted to override the Governor Rauner's veto of “Tobacco 21.” The legislation would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

According to the American Lung Association, 95 percent of tobacco users started before their 21st birthday.

The goal of the bill would be to cut off the supply to 18-year-olds, so they don't pass on tobacco to their teenage peers in high school.

"I can appreciate having like a buffer, so that they'll have an opportunity to think about it before they make those type of choices,” parent Jacqueline Gragg said.

But if 18-year-olds can't buy tobacco, at what age do they actually become adults?

"Voting, being able to sign contract, 18 has been viewed as an appropriate age,” Attorney Carl Draper with FeldmanWasser said. “You're certainly held to standards of being an adult in the criminal law, at least by age 18. That takes people out of the juvenile court process."

Still, attorneys say Tobacco 21 is legally sound, just like having to be 21 to drink or gamble.

"When it comes to public safety, or personal health and safety issues, it may sound a little parochial, but the law presumes that when you're young, you can't make smart decisions for yourself,” Draper said.

But some say 18 is old enough to make their own health decisions.

"You're more independent, I believe, when you're 18-years-old,” 20-year-old smoker Zain Ridgeway said. “You're out on your own. Buy your own house, buy your own car."

Although attorneys say the law goes back and forth between the magic age of becoming an adult, parents like Gragg say their kids will always be their children. Gragg supports this measure.

“If you have to go out of state, then you really have to think about what you're doing,” Gragg said. “That creates boundaries between the cigarette and the kid. And so if they have to go through those extreme measures, it's going to deter them more than motivate them."

Tobacco 21 has just been passed by the Senate, which is the first step needed in overriding the governor's veto. The bill will have to pass the House to become law.

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