Editorial: Lake Zurich bans teen tobacco sales and state should too

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 12/5/2018 6:50 PM
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  • Vernon Hills, and now Lake Zurich, are among the suburbs who have increased the minimum age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

    Vernon Hills, and now Lake Zurich, are among the suburbs who have increased the minimum age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21. Daily Herald file photo, 2017

Lake Zurich this week joined the growing list of suburbs that have raised the age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21. It's a wise move to prevent teens from smoking and vaping -- and one with important timing.

Just last week, Illinois lawmakers fell nine votes short of reversing Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a bill that would have made 21 the minimum age statewide. Ultimately, that's a better strategy -- and stronger statement -- than town-by-town bans that are easy to skirt by driving to neighboring suburbs.

Lake Zurich is now the 28th municipality in the state to raise the age from 18 to 21 for buying tobacco. The village's ordinance, which takes effect Jan. 1, also makes it illegal for those under 21 to possess tobacco products.

In 2014, Evanston was the first community in Illinois to raise the tobacco age. Since then, Chicago, Naperville, Gurnee, Aurora, Elk Grove Village, Vernon Hills and others have followed suit.

We applaud officials from all these towns who have joined the Tobacco 21 movement. And we thank state lawmakers who have pushed to make it statewide.

There are good reasons for keeping cigarettes and other tobacco products away from teens. Smoking is a deadly, hard-to-kick habit, and numbers from the American Lung Association show that 95 percent of long-term smokers first lit up before their 21st birthday.

That's a staggering percentage, and chipping away at it would save lives as well as substantial health care costs.

Opponents complain that raising the age would hurt businesses. They also point out that 18-year-olds can fight for their country and deserve the right to smoke if they choose. But the stakes are simply too high.

Consider these facts from the Centers for Disease Control:

• Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States.

• Smokers die, on average, 10 years earlier than those who don't smoke.

• If the rate of smoking continues among American youth, an estimated 5.6 million of those currently under 18 will die early from smoking-related causes.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids stresses that younger smokers are more vulnerable to nicotine addiction and that raising the tobacco age to 21 would go a long way toward keeping cigarettes out of schools.

So, where do we go from here?

Lake Zurich Trustee Marc Spacone said this week he hopes the Illinois legislature will take up the issue once new members and the new governor are sworn in. That happens next month, and we join Spacone in urging the 101st Illinois General Assembly to do what the 100th couldn't -- adopt Tobacco 21.

Until that happens, suburbs should continue to follow the example of Lake Zurich and others.

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