Evanston aldermen Monday unanimously backed an ordinance that would raise the age for sale and purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 21. But they stripped a provision from the ordinance that would have also made it illegal for young adults to possess cigarettes.

In urging removal of the ban on possession Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said it would criminalize something that’s perfectly legal across the city’s border and could lead to a $200 to $500 fine.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said criminalizing something that has been legal for years “seems excessive.”

“If smokers are addicted,” he added, “they will use it” despite the legislation.

Alderman Jane Grover suggested that young adules could just smoke in their own homes, but Wilson said the ordinance as proposed would still make that activity against the law.

Removing the ban on possession for 18 to 21 year olds from the ordinance passed 7-2 with Grover and Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voting against it.

The existing ordinance already criminalizes possession of cigarettes by persons under age 18, but Evanston police say they’ve only made one arrest for that offense in the past three years.

Holmes suggested that the city consider a total ban on the sale of tobacco products, but that idea was not put to a vote.

The higher smoking age ordinance still requires another vote at a City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 27, to take effect.

The higher age limit, with the possession ban, had been unanimously approved by the council’s Human Services Committee last week after advocates said a similar ordinance in Needham, Mass., had cut teen smoking rates in half — largely because it made it less likely that high-school age youths would be able to get cigarettes from their slightly older friends and relatives.

The supporters also argue that young adults are especially at risk for becoming addicted to smoking because their brains are more susceptible to nicotine than those of older adults.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Holmes n’ Grover

    Wow… it really befuddles the mind that Aldermen Holmes and Grover would want to impose $200-$500 fines against 18-20 year old adults for mere possession of cigarettes… something that is perfectly legal throughout the entire state and nearly the entire country and world. Do they not realize how many young people, especially that do not live in Evanston, would unknowingly be in violation of the law simply by crossing into the city.  The judgment of Holmes and Grove as elected official seriously must be questioned.

  2. Ridiculous age hike for cigarettes
    Last I checked, when you turn 18, *it is the law to register for selective service*. If you can die for our country, you should be able to do anything you want in our country, so long as it is legal at the federal level.

    Our alderman are now stomping on our rights. We should all shame them. They are pathetic.

    Who knows what comes next…

    1. Voting

      Forget not that the minimum age to vote is 18, obviously if you are mature enough to make a logical decision regarding our elected officials, then you should be able to decide to smoke or not.

      This age mandate to 21 perplexes me.  What business does government (at local level) have telling people what they can and cannot do?  Moreover, the prospect of these crazy fines is designed not to inform or educate… But to punish.  A common tactic used all too often to alter behavior based on an ideology… Change or get punished.

      A harbinger of faith that government should control our lives, I guess the term nanny comes to mind.

  3. Aldermen hike tobacco sales age to 21

    Just a quick reminder of a person's rights when they turn 18 – let this list sink in and ask yourself 'Are my aldermen doling their job?'

    to sign a contract (rent an apartment, buy a car, take out a loan) in your own name;
    to apply for credit in your own name.
    to vote (including aldermen and mayor)
    to make a will and power of attorney;
    to make your own end-of-life decisions;
    to be an organ donor;
    to obtain medical treatment without parental consent;
    to enlist in the armed forces without parental consent;
    to be completely independent from parental control;

    What are some of the responsibilities a person has at age 18 that he or she didn't have before?

    You will be tried in adult criminal court rather than juvenile court.
    Your parents are no longer required to support you.
    You may be sued by others on contracts you signed.
    You are eligible for jury duty.
    All males must register with Selective Service.

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