Illinois Governor Pushes Back on Tobacco 21

Veto based on limiting consumer choice, forcing sales to nonlicensed vendors

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) threw a wrench into Illinois lawmakers’ plans to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, vetoing a bill that went to his desk for signature.

The Republican governor wrote in a veto message that the age increase from 18 years of age would “push residents to buy tobacco products from nonlicensed vendors or in neighboring states,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Smoking is detrimental to the health of Illinoisans of all ages,” Rauner wrote. “It is important that we address the issues caused by tobacco use, especially since many people begin using tobacco at a young age. Unfortunately, this legislation will inhibit the choice of consumers while also not helping keep tobacco products out of the hands of youth.”

If signed into law, the bill would have covered cigarettes, cigars, other tobacco products, alternative nicotine products and e-cigarettes, according to Illinoispolicy.gov. The latter is defined as “any electronic nicotine delivery system, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, electronic hookah, vape pen or similar product or device.”

In October 2014, the suburb of Evanston, Ill., enacted the first tobacco 21 ordinance in Illinois, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel following suit in 2016. Twenty-two Illinois municipalities have implemented local tobacco 21 ordinances, reported the government website. Six states have adopted the measure statewide, including California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon and most recently, Massachusetts.

Illinois lawmakers could try to override Rauner when they go back to Springfield after the November election, according to the Tribune, but getting enough votes to do so could be difficult. The proposal cleared the Illinois House in the spring with only one vote to spare.

Photograph courtesy of Illinois Office of the Governor


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