Wauconda trustees divided on increasing minimum age for buying cigarettes
Wauconda trustees are split over whether the town should increase the minimum age for buying cigarettes, e-cigarettes and related products to 21 from 18.
The fate of such a proposal may come down to a tiebreaking vote from Mayor Lincoln Knight -- and he wants more information before saying if he'll support or oppose it.
"I want to make sure the subject is vetted properly before making a decision," Knight told the Daily Herald.
Trustees debated during a license and administrative committee meeting Monday whether people ages 18 to 20 should be able to continue buying tobacco and vaping products. Knight attended the meeting but didn't participate.
The discussion came about a month after members of the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force spoke to the village board about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
According to health experts, people who haven't used tobacco by age 21 are unlikely to start. Additionally, research shows increasing the minimum age to 21 could reduce premature deaths and preterm births.
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, Mundelein and Vernon Hills are among the towns that have increased the minimum age. The threshold is 21 in unincorporated areas of Lake County, too.
Wauconda Trustee Rich Morino called the illnesses associated with smoking and vaping "an avoidable catastrophe" and said the board should increase the minimum age to 21.
Trustees Chuck Black and Ken Arnswald agreed.
But trustees Adam Schlick and Tim Howe were on the other side of the issue. Both said 18-year-olds can vote and join the military and should be able to smoke.
Howe noted that if Wauconda increases the minimum age to 21, smokers and vapers just need to drive to neighboring Island Lake or other communities to buy the products. He also said the state should change the minimum purchasing age, not villages.
Legislation that would do that was approved by the General Assembly this spring and awaits Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature.
Trustee Linda Starkey revealed her parents died of smoking-related illnesses and that she hates cigarettes. But she also said she was "on the fence" when it came to an age change because people legally are adults at 18.
"The question for me is that should I, as a local elected official, be able to tell an adult what they can and can't do?" Starkey said in a subsequent interview.
Monday's discussion was a preliminary conversation. Trustees will argue the merits of a formal ordinance increasing the age for buying tobacco products when they meet Aug. 6.
Wauconda trustees have requested information about the change's impact on smoking and sales tax revenue in the communities that have made the change. They've also requested information from Wauconda High School about student smoking and vaping habits.