The Tobacco 21 movement was close to claiming Illinois in 2018, falling short by way of a veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state’s House of Representatives unable to gather enough votes to override the veto. But that isn’t stopping legislators from giving a bill that would raise the minimum purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 21-years-old another go in 2019.
This session’s bill will start its legislative journey in the Senate by way of S.B. 21, co-sponsored by Sens. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield and Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort. In addition to making the purchase of tobacco products restricted to persons over 21, it would also change the age for possession to 21, something that has often been a sticking point in similar debates across the country. Numerous discussions have occurred between legislators who feel that restricting access to tobacco is one matter and giving someone a criminal record for possession is unnecessary.
With a new mix in the legislature, the bill could face an easier path to the governor’s office, where the newly elected J.B. Pritzker, also a Democrat, would need to sign it into law. The bill current awaits action from the Senate Assignments Committee.
Six states have already made 21 the minimum age to purchase tobacco products: Hawaii, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine and Massachusetts. Several other states, including New York, New Hampshire, Washington, Vermont, North Dakota, New Mexico and Virginia, have legislation currently under consideration, while Delaware is expected to join that group in the near future.