Arlington Heights set to ban tobacco sales to those under 21
Arlington Heights is set to join a growing list of suburban communities that ban the sale of tobacco to those under 21, after a discussion by village trustees Monday.
The village's advisory board of health in June recommended increasing the minimum age from 18 to 21, but village board members at the time wanted to wait and see if Springfield lawmakers would approve a similar measure statewide.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes sent a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner in July, urging him to sign legislation approved by the state House and Senate, but Rauner vetoed the bill the following month, fearing it would lead residents to purchase from businesses in neighboring states.
During a committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday night, Hayes and other board members said they would still prefer a state law instead of a patchwork of local laws but are going forward with a village ordinance in the meantime.
"I and the board encouraged the state to act to create a level playing field," Hayes said. "That was our hope it would happen. It didn't. It shows how much pull I have with Gov. Rauner. This is an area I think we really can't stand by and wait for the state to act."
Under the new rules, to be formally considered in ordinance form as soon as January, retailers in Arlington Heights would be barred from selling any tobacco, electronic smoking devices or vaping products to those under 21. The measure wouldn't outlaw possession under 21, though some trustees sought such language to have more "teeth" in the ordinance.
Police Chief Gerald Mourning said rules on possession would be difficult for police to enforce, particularly with minors who travel through Arlington Heights after legally purchasing tobacco in neighboring towns. But Mourning said changing the age for sale could provide fewer chances for youth to get tobacco because it would increase the social gap between young adults and younger kids.
Students from Stevenson High School's Catalyst club, who successfully lobbied village boards in Lincolnshire, Vernon Hills and Buffalo Grove to increase the tobacco sale age, were joined Monday by students from Hersey and Prospect high schools in encouraging the Arlington Heights board to pass similar regulations. They argued it would lead to fewer people starting to smoke, since studies show most people begin before they turn 21.
Hayes said he considered the pros and cons of the issue -- particularly the effect on retailers -- but noted the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce is neutral.
Some 360 municipalities nationwide have increased the tobacco sale age to 21, including Barrington, Hoffman Estates and Lake Zurich in recent weeks.
Cook County commissioners will discuss an ordinance Wednesday.