United States

Chicago Suburb to Consider Raising Minimum Age to Buy Tobacco

A Chicago suburb will consider raising the minimum age to buy tobacco and nicotine products following a letter from a 9-year-old requesting the mayor help people stop smoking.

The Elgin City Council will consider raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 on Wednesday, The Courier-News reported.

Mayor Dave Kaptain said he initiated the directive after receiving the girl's letter and following the city's Board of Health agreeing that the age should be raised.

However, organizations like the National Association of Convenience Stores, the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and Illinois Association of Convenience Stores question raising the limit to age 21.

Age regulations that aren't across the board could hurt revenue for some stores and cut tax revenue as people shop elsewhere, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores.

If the City Council moves the measure forward, it would be up for a final vote on July 25. Violators could be fined $250 to $500, said Molly Center, communications specialist for Elgin.

Elgin would join 26 towns across Illinois with similar age restrictions if the rule goes into effect, said Carolyn Cerf, government relations director for the American Heart Association.

Chicago and Evanston were the first cities in the state to increase the tobacco age limit three years ago. Figures show teen smoking rates in those cities have since declined more than 35 percent, according to Cerf.

State lawmakers approved a bill to raise the age limit for tobacco and nicotine products in May. The bill, which would go in effect in January, awaits Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature.

Cerf said Elgin would miss an opportunity to have restrictions in place for the upcoming school year if the council decides to wait for January.

"Having an ordinance in place for this school year will allow schools to start addressing teen smoking and vaping immediately," Cerf said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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