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updated: 7/5/2017 9:02 PM

Will Mundelein increase age for buying, possessing tobacco?

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  • Mundelein officials are considering increasing the minimum age to purchase or possess tobacco products to 21. It's a step other Lake County communities, including Lincolnshire and Deerfield, have taken in recent months.

      Mundelein officials are considering increasing the minimum age to purchase or possess tobacco products to 21. It's a step other Lake County communities, including Lincolnshire and Deerfield, have taken in recent months.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2011

 
 

Following similar actions in other towns, Mundelein officials may increase the minimum age for buying or possessing tobacco products from 18 to 21.

But the proposal faces opposition from one village trustee who defended the rights of businesses to sell a legal product and another who doesn't see a need for change.

"Let's focus our energies on something that might actually be more worthwhile than people who want to get cancer anyway," Trustee Kerston Russell said during a public discussion last week.

Under state law, the minimum age to buy or possess cigarettes and other tobacco products is 18. But municipalities can set the threshold higher.

That's what Lincolnshire officials did last month when they increased the minimum age for buying tobacco to 21, effective immediately. Chicago, Highland Park, Naperville, Evanston and Oak Park have taken the same step in recent years.

Deerfield went further by increasing the minimum age for purchasing and possessing tobacco products to 21.

And on Wednesday, the Vernon Hills village board by a 4-0 vote approved a measure prohibiting the sale of tobacco products, e-cigarettes and alternative nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21.

The ordinance goes into effect Aug. 1, In the interim, police will inform licensed tobacco retailers of the new restrictions. Signs required to be posted by retailers will be provided by the village.

The issue came up at last week's Mundelein village board meeting because officials in neighboring Vernon Hills have prepared an ordinance that would raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 21.

Thirty-six Mundelein businesses sell cigarettes or other tobacco products, Public Safety Director Eric Guenther said.

Mayor Steve Lentz expressed concern that if nearby towns increase the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21 and Mundelein holds at 18, businesses that sell tobacco would flock to Mundelein to reach younger customers.

Village Administrator John Lobaito acknowledged that's a possibility.

"The free market may take over," Lobaito said.

Trustee Dawn Abernathy opposed any change to local tobacco regulations.

"I do have a problem regulating businesses and telling them you can't sell something that's actually legal," she said.

Russell objected to "drawing lines" and said 18 works as a minimum age.

Guenther said increasing the legal age for possessing cigarettes in Mundelein would be difficult to enforce if neighboring towns stick with 18. Telling merchants they can't sell cigarettes to anyone under 21 is much simpler, he said.

Trustee Ray Semple agreed with that approach and said he'd support raising the threshold for buying tobacco. So did trustees Robin Meier and Bill Rekus.

With trustees divided 3-2, Mayor Steve Lentz suggested waiting to take action until after a board vacancy is filled. That could happen July 24.

Lentz said he also wants to wait to see what officials in Vernon Hills and other villages do.

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