Illinois Poised to Raise Legal Age to Buy Tobacco

After passing state House and Senate, measure awaits governor’s signature

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- All that stands between Illinois becoming the sixth state in the country to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 is Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature.

In a narrow 61-49 vote in the Illinois House of Representatives on May 30, lawmakers approved a bill to raise the legal purchase age, a measure the Senate approved in April.

If Rauner, a Republican, signs the bill, Illinois will become the sixth state behind California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon to embrace the growing tobacco 21 standard, as some have called it. Massachusetts' legislators are also considering a similar measure.

Fourteen Illinois municipalities and counties already have adopted ordinances that raise the purchase age for tobacco to 21, reported Illinois Network News.

While many state Republicans rejected the move, Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, voted for the bill, according to a local NPR affiliate. “This is a vote I’m making on my own personal beliefs,” he told the House chamber during debate. “If we can take steps to make a healthier Illinois, I think we should do it.”

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce said the state could stand to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue if the legal age is raised to 21, NPR reported. Other opponents said a higher minimum age would send sales tax money to surrounding states.

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