SPRINGFIELD —Backed by growing support across the state, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is making good on his promise to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.
“This is not a complicated issue. It would be the law already if not for former Governor Rauner. Now, with a new governor, I’m confident that we can get this public health improvement to his desk and have it signed into law,” Cullerton said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.
Cullerton has long been a public health advocate and key supporter of Tobacco 21 legislation currently sponsored by Sen. Julie Morrison, a suburban Deerfield Democrat. The proposal raises the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 from 18.
The key issue, Cullerton said, is preventing young adults from buying cigarettes for younger teenagers, who then become addicted and face a lifetime of increased health problems.
Cullerton and Morrison led efforts last year to pass similar legislation only to have then-Gov. Bruce Rauner veto it. At the time, Cullerton vowed to override the veto and if that didn’t work, refile the proposal in 2019. The Senate did override Rauner’s veto, but the House was unable to muster the votes.
Senate Bill 21 was recently filed and mirrors last year’s proposal. The Senate’s Public Health Committee is expected to debate it Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, across Illinois, several communities —most notably Chicago — raced ahead of the state on this issue to protect children’s health. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is among those calling for the state to take action. City public health officials are expected to testify in support of Tobacco 21 during Tuesday’s Senate hearing.
“We’ve seen this work in Chicago. I want to thank Mayor Emanuel for his work to not only improve public health in the city but to support our efforts here to do the same statewide,” Cullerton said. “It’s time for the state to step up and protect our children from this known danger.”