Cook County ready to ban under-21 tobacco sales in unincorporated areas

As more and more municipalities throughout the Northwest suburbs increase the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, the Cook County Board is poised to vote Thursday to enact the same rules in unincorporated areas.

Cook County would join Lake County and 35 towns in Illinois that have increased the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The ordinance, before a county board committee Wednesday, earned a 15-1-1 tally, with Bridget Degnen voting "no" and Luis Arroyo Jr. voting "present." The legislation is expected to be considered by the full board of commissioners Thursday. It would take effect June 1.

The ordinance is sponsored by 15 of the 17 commissioners, including new Commissioner Kevin Morrison of Elk Grove Village, who says he started smoking as a teenager and wouldn't have begun had cigarettes not been provided to him as a 15-year-old by elder classmates.

"I regret every day the first time I picked up a cigarette, and I firmly believe we must do whatever we can to see that tobacco and nicotine products stay out of the hands of our youth," Morrison wrote in a statement. "Raising the minimum age of purchase to 21 will make it far more difficult for middle school and high school students from acquiring and becoming addicted to nicotine products."

For those under 21, the county ordinance would prohibit the sale and distribution of tobacco products, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes and other consumables derived from tobacco.

On Tuesday, Des Plaines aldermen formally took a second-reading vote to enact their local ordinance that bans not only the sale of tobacco to those under 21 but also possession of it. Only Lake Zurich and Deerfield so far have passed similar rules on possession.

Also Tuesday, Rolling Meadows aldermen took a 4-3 first-reading vote to advance an ordinance hiking the sale age to 21. Mayor Len Prejna asked the city staff to draft an ordinance after speaking with advocates and officials from nearby towns who also have enacted the regulations.

Alderman Mike Cannon, who voted "no" with Nick Budmats and Joe Gallo, questioned if it could have an effect on local businesses and argued 18-year-olds hold other legal rights.

A final vote is scheduled for Feb. 12.

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Tobacco possession age likely going up to 21 in Des Plaines

Cook County Board Commissioner Kevin Morrison of Elk Grove Village sponsored a measure that would hike the age to buy tobacco products in unincorporated areas from 18 to 21.
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