Mundelein increases minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21
A divided Mundelein village board has increased the minimum age for buying cigarettes, vaping equipment and related products from 18 to 21.
The change -- designed to prevent young people from smoking -- is effective March 1. Officials delayed implementation to ensure retailers know about the shift.
Vendors or customers who violate the updated ordinance face fines of up to $500.
Under Illinois law, the minimum age to buy or possess tobacco products and e-cigarettes is 18. But municipalities and counties can set the threshold higher.
Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Lincolnshire and Vernon Hills are among the towns that recently have increased the age. The threshold jumps to 21 in unincorporated areas of Lake County on Jan. 1.
Mundelein joined that list Monday after months of public debate -- as well as pleas from health experts and teen activists who favored the change and local merchants who opposed it.
Several people on both sides of the issue addressed the board before the vote.
Among them was Jeremy Petrocelli, owner of a local vaping supply store called Vape-N-Juice. He said he started his business to help people quit smoking and requested exemptions for his products.
But Lea Bacci, an assistant prevention coordinator with the Lake County Health Department, said no research-based evidence shows vaping products help people quit smoking. She called them a "gateway product" for nicotine, the addictive chemical in tobacco.
When it came time for board action, trustees Ray Semple, Scott Black and Bill Rekus supported increasing the age threshold, as did Mayor Steve Lentz.
"I felt it was a good idea to follow the lead of the county and our neighbors on this ordinance," Semple said afterward.
Lentz voted because four "yes" votes are necessary to adopt an ordinance.
Trustees Kerston Russell and Dawn Abernathy opposed the change. As she has previously, Abernathy criticized the proposal as an example of government interference in our lives.
"Smoking's not a good thing but I don't think we need to regulate it," Abernathy said. "I think the government is stepping in and doing too much right now."
Afterward, Abernathy said the change won't keep young people from smoking.
"It is only going to have them go to neighboring towns to purchase cigarettes," she said.
Trustee Robin Meier voted "present." Although she said she believes no one should smoke at any age, Meier insisted such decisions should be left to individuals.
"I really think every youth needs to learn responsibility and accountability, and how to make responsible decisions and understand the consequences of those decisions," Meier said.
In contrast, Lentz said government's role in regulating addictive or harmful substances is "widely accepted." Additionally, ensuring teen health is in Mundelein's public interest, he said.