Senate narrowly overrides Rauner ‘Tobacco 21’ veto

Senate narrowly overrides Rauner ‘Tobacco 21’ veto

A bill that would raise the legal age to 21 for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarette products will return to the Illinois House of Representatives after Senate lawmakers overrode Gov. Rauner’s veto.

State lawmakers are closer to raising the legal age to purchase cigarettes to 21 in Illinois.

Senate lawmakers narrowly voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that would raise the state’s legal tobacco purchase age. Senate Bill 2332 cleared the Senate by a margin of 36-19, earning the bare minimum of votes needed to override the governor’s veto from August. The bill will now return to the House, where a successful override would make Illinois the seventh state with 21 as the legal minimum age to buy tobacco.

But the bill’s restrictions wouldn’t only apply to tobacco. Items prohibited under the bill would include alternative nicotine products and electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes.” E-cigarettes include “any electronic nicotine delivery system, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, electronic hookah, vape pen, or similar product or device.”

Filed Jan. 24 by state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, the initiative is part of a nationwide movement known as “Tobacco 21.” This effort previously took hold in Evanston, which raised the legal age of tobacco purchase to 21 in 2014. The city of Chicago adopted the measure in 2016.

In September 2017, Lake County became the first in Illinois to implement the Tobacco 21 ordinance countywide.

The introduction of SB 2332 on the momentum of the Tobacco 21 movement might suggest a smoking epidemic among young adults in Illinois. Data hint the opposite is occurring.

Smoking hit rock bottom in terms of consumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette use per capita fell to a record low nationwide, declining by over 60 percent between 1965-2014. The Land of Lincoln has the second-lowest rate of adult cigarette consumption in the Midwest as of 2017, according to the United Health Foundation, or UHF. Fewer than 16 percent of Illinois adults smoked cigarettes as of 2017 – down from a rate of nearly 21 percent in 2012.

This perhaps can explain why cigarette tax revenue in Illinois has continually fallen short of projections, despite the fact that the state boasts the fourth-highest cigarette tax in the Midwest. Combined cigarette taxes at the federal, state, county and city level make Chicago’s cigarette taxes the highest in the nation.

fiscal note prepared by the Department of Revenue estimated the new age restriction would decrease cigarette tax revenue by between $35 million and $40 million per fiscal year and decrease sales tax revenue by $6 million to $8 million.

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation attributes the unreliability of cigarette tax revenue in part to the overall decline in cigarette use – a trend that long predates Illinois’ existing Tobacco 21 ordinances. UHF smoking data also show Missouri experiencing a drop in regular smokers from 2012-2017, despite having the lowest cigarette tax in the country.

With cigarette use falling out of public favor, and with no shortage of serious concerns facing Illinois, it makes little sense for state lawmakers to restrict those old enough to choose them on Election Day from choosing what to buy at the store.

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