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Illinois Gov Gets One Right on Tobacco 21

Kudos to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for vetoing the state legislature’s bill to increase the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 in the state.

While acknowledging that smoking is “detrimental to the health of Illinoisans of all ages,” Rauner said the bill would only limit consumer choice without keeping tobacco out of the hands of young people.

Rauner rightly pointed out that the bill would just encourage Illinois residents to buy tobacco products from non-licensed vendors on the black market, or from stores in neighboring states that haven’t raised the age for purchasing tobacco products.

The result would have little impact on public health, while “local businesses and the state would see decreased revenue” from lost sales and taxes — up to $48 million per year, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

So far, six states have passed prohibitions on the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21, with Massachusetts’ law set to go into effect Dec. 31. In addition, hundreds of counties and cities across the nation have enacted Tobacco 21 restrictions, with most including bans on electronic cigarettes and vaping products (which are likely contributing to the reduced rate of smoking more dangerous combustible cigarettes).

All this despite the fact that teen smoking had been declining across the country before the enactment of any Tobacco 21 restrictions, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study. And studies cited by Tobacco 21 proponents that the age restriction would reduce smoking rates among high schoolers are speculative and incomplete at best.

Ironically, many of the same people advocating further restrictions on tobacco use for health reasons are also among the leading advocates for legalizing marijuana use with its questionable health effects.

Of course, smoking is a risky behavior. However, few can argue that consumers today are not fully aware of the health risks. Nevertheless, Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton recently said the legislature is going to try and overturn Governor Rauner’s veto and, if that fails, the lawmakers will reintroduce the bill next year.

Governments, and do-gooder activists, should be happy that cigarette smoking rates among teens is declining. Although, that means they’ll have to find a new cause and a new enemy to go after.

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