Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted unanimously Monday night to recommend that the City Council raise the legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Businesses selling tobacco products would face fines of up to $500 and possible loss of their tobacco sales license for violations.
Donald Zeigler of 1430 Elmwood Ave., chair of the Evanton Health Advisory Council, said communities in Massachusetts, Hawaii and New York have raised the age limit, and urged that Evanston become the first community in Illinois to follow their lead.
Zeigler, an assistant professor of community and social medicine at Rush University Medical Center, said Needham, Mass., which became, in 2005, one of the first communities to adopt the higher age limit, has seen smoking rates among high school students cut in half — a much greater decline than in nearby communities that did not raise the smoking age.
Dr. Timothy Sanborn.
Dr. Timothy Sanborn, a member of the Health Advisory Council, who is a clinical professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, said the 18 to 21 year age group is particularily at risk because they are more susceptible to nicotine than adults.
He also argued that the ban would have little impact on merchants because sales to that age group represent only about 2 percent of cigarette sales in the United States.
And he said that in the 33 communities nationwide that have approved the higher smoking age, to date no retailers have gone out of business because they can’t sell to the young adults.
Alderman Jane Grover.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said that as a parent of two sons in the affected age group, “I have no regret about taking away their right to buy cigarettes in Evanston.”
The ordinance would also extend the existing ban on possession of tobacco products by juveniles to persons between the ages of 18-21.
Police Cmdr. James Pickett said juveniles in possession can be issue a ticket. And he noted that the police department periodically conducts sting operations to catch retailers failing to enforce the ban on underage tobacco sales.