Vernon Hills may be next to raise age to buy tobacco to 21
Vernon Hills likely will become the next Lake County community to raise the permitted age to buy tobacco products to 21 rather than 18.
The village board has directed an ordinance be drafted for official action to reflect that change and update the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes.
Raising the age to possess tobacco products was considered during a discussion Tuesday, but a majority of trustees informally declined to go that route because it would be unwieldy to enforce.
"Let's just move the sale (age) up first and if we have to add on to the ordinance, let's do that," Trustee Craig Takaoka said. He raised the issue a few weeks ago after hearing from constituents.
Trustees agreed to proceed with the change, joining Deerfield, Highland Park and most recently Lincolnshire in raising the selling age. Lake County also is considering the possibility, but any action would apply only in unincorporated areas.
The idea is to make it more difficult for young users to get access to tobacco products, particularly e-cigarettes. The electronic versions have a use rate triple that of regular tobacco among high school students, according to information presented to the board.
Several speakers representing local high schools and the Lake County Health Department made the case for raising the age.
Ninety-five percent of adult smokers start before age 21, said Melissa Hauptman, a Stevenson High School student.
"Two-thirds of 10th-grade students and nearly one-half of eighth-grade students say it's easy to get cigarettes," she said.
Measures to raise the sale age at the state level have been introduced the past two years but have not advanced, creating an uneven landscape where something legal in one town would be prohibited in the next.
"The objective here really is to move the state forward," Trustee Jim Schultz said. "The patchwork (of regulations) is BS. We need the state to take action."
Police Chief Patrick Kreis said educating the 15 tobacco retailers in Vernon Hills would be easy.
"Where it would become very challenging is any attempt to try to ban the use or possession of tobacco products" by those under 21, he said.
Penalties in an updated ordinance wouldn't change. Individuals who sell to underage customers can be issued a citation to be heard in court where they could be fined up to $1,000. The police report would be forwarded to village authorities and the business owner could face a fine, suspension or revocation of their license, according to Kreis.