Illinois & Washington State Raise Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21

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Illinois & Washington State Raise Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21

Tobacco 21 sign

NATIONAL REPORT — Two more states have joined the Tobacco 21 movement: Washington and Illinois.

On April 5, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation raising the state's legal minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The new law goes into effect on Jan. 1.

"We know the risks associated with tobacco and nicotine," Inslee said. "We know how much easier it is to prevent our children from becoming addicted in the first place than to treat the addiction later in life, or even worse, to treat the cancers and diseases caused by these products."

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the state Department of Health were driving forces behind the legislation. State lawmakers considered the bill in five legislative sessions before being passed this year, according to the governor's office.

"Because 18- to 20-year-olds supply younger teens with tobacco and vape products, this will reduce the number of cigarettes and vape products in our high schools, which will lead to fewer kids getting addicted," Ferguson said.

Moving to the middle of the country, Illinois became the first state in the Midwest to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. Gov. JB Pritzker signed the legislation on April 7.

"Today is a milestone day for the health of our communities and especially our young people," Pritzker said. "We are here today to raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21 in Illinois. This is action that's supported by the surgeon general, the American Cancer Society, our own Illinois Department of Public Health, our local health departments, by all available research, every standing here and by common sense.

"For Illinois, it will reduce costs for our state, it will make our schools and communities healthier places to learn and live, and — most importantly — it will save lives. I am so proud to sign this legislation today," he said.

The legislation, which goes into effect July 1, covers tobacco and vaping products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and vapes, according to the governor's office.

Similar legislation failed in Illinois in the past. In August, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed Tobacco 21 legislation three months after state lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate voted in favor of increasing the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 across the state, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

"This overdue change for the better is happening because JB Pritzker is governor. I applaud him for doing the right thing and signing the legislation we've all worked so hard to pass," said state Senate President John J. Cullerton (D-6th District). "This will make a difference. It will save lives. I look forward to continuing this collaborative process with the governor as we move on to tackle other issues and make Illinois better."