Gurnee raises age of tobacco sales to 21

 
By Doug Graham
dgraham@dailyherald.com
Updated 3/19/2018 9:18 PM
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The village of Gurnee became the 18th municipality in the state to raise the age to purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21 Monday night.

The village board unanimously approved the plan, which was promoted by the Lake County Health Department and is designed to prevent young people from smoking in the interest of public health.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the board has been considering this for at least six months.

"This is the right thing for our community," Kovarik said after the vote.

Trustee Jeanne Balmes said it was a hard decision for her because she is against regulating everything and saying people shouldn't make their own decisions.

"It goes against my grain, but sometimes you have to help people make the right decisions," Balmes said before voting yes.

Marcia Smith, co-owner of Smokes & Such, spoke out against the ordinance during public comment. Smith said the plan took away rights from 18-year-olds who are entrusted to vote, get married or even join the military like her son. Smith, who said she doesn't smoke, said she doesn't want her son to smoke either, but said she doesn't think it is right at this point in his life to force him not to.

"We will survive as a business, but we think it is wrong to take away adult rights," Smith said.

Carolyn Cerf of the American Heart Association said the initial data from other Tobacco 21 communities said it has indicated the new rule works on younger people as well. Cerf said at Evanston Township High School since the rule went in place, teen smoking is down 37.5 percent.

Gurnee Police Chief Kevin Woodside said it was important to stress that the new rule didn't apply to tobacco possession, because it wouldn't be fair to 18- to 20-year-olds who bought tobacco elsewhere and traveled to Gurnee.

Woodside said last week that the new rule will go into effect immediately, but his department won't begin doing compliance checks at stores that sell tobacco for 30 days.

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