Des Plaines to vote whether to increase tobacco age to 21

Updated 1/6/2019 5:32 PM

Des Plaines could be the latest suburb to raise the age limit for buying tobacco products to 21.

The city council is set to vote Monday, Jan. 7, on an ordinance to increase the age for purchasing tobacco and vaping products. If passed, the city would join 28 towns across Illinois (as of December), plus unincorporated Lake County, in raising the age limit to 21 from 18, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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"I think we have to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our kids," 5th Ward Alderman Carla Brookman said during a city council meeting last month.

State lawmakers voted last year to raise the age statewide but failed to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto.

In Des Plaines, like other municipalities that already have increased the age limit, the issue began with concerns about kids using vaping products, or e-cigarettes, at school campuses. The city passed an ordinance in May to create alternative penalties that allow first-time student offenders caught with nicotine products to complete an education program rather than pay fines.

But the city has continued to contend with young people using the products.

"This isn't something that is small," 6th Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester said. "This is something that is increasing and we need to put a stop to."

In one case, Police Chief Bill Kushner said, an 18-year-old stood outside a vaping shop, escorted underage kids inside and purchased nicotine products for them.

"Very much like a straw purchaser with a handgun," Kushner said.

The city council meeting is at 7 p.m. at city hall, 1420 Miner St.

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