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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.

Related story

City considers raising tobacco age to 21

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. This is a matter for the state

    1. I question if the city, even as a home rule authority, has the legal right to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco. I'm not saying for sure they can't, but it is suspect. I do know for a fact that an Illinois municipality cannot raise (or lower) its drinking age.

    2. It sounds like, according to this article, possession (not just purchase) of tobacco in Evanston by those 18-21 would be a criminal offense. How in the world is an 18-21-year-old that lives outside of Evanston ever supposed to know this? The police are now going to issue criminal citations to adults that lawfully purchased tobacco in, say, Skokie or Chicago or Springfield, and unwittingly are snagged by the cops as they walk down the street while visiting Evanston?

    3. Just like alcohol, this is a hypocritical assault on lawful adults. We, as a society, are going to say they can vote, sign contracts, go to war, be charged as an adult, etc. and then say they are not old enough to decide if they can purchase/consume tobacco. I don't want to see young adults consume tobacco, but prevention must be accomplished through education.

    Regardless, this is a matter of statewide concern, not for the Evanston City Council to decide.

    1. I agree; Evanston City

      I agree; Evanston City Council members seem bent on doing far too many things that are not in their power. 

  2. Stop Young Adults
    Is this going to be used to stop young adults to check age if are smoking? Is it a good idea?

  3. It’s a great day. This is

    It's a great day. This is good news. The prefrontal cortexes of 18 year-olds are by no means "mature" or "adult." This is a win for prevention work and a precedent has been set. As a 41 year-old person who can't stop smoking on and off after starting in high school, I know that I wasn't an "adult" making my own choices; tobacco addiction had made some inroads in my brain and I didn't have much of a say in it.

    1. You are right.

      You are correct… the prefrontal cortexes of 18 year olds are not fully developed… that does not occur until around 25 years old. Subsequently, you surely are in favor of raising the age to 25 in order to sign a contract, enlist in the army, get married, be criminally charged as an adult, buy a gun, etc. You can't have it both ways.

      1. I don’t see the comparison.
        I don’t see the comparison. How is buying a gun or getting married relate to tobacco negatively changing the neural pathways in the brain? Do you want to support the research for that if it could even be done? Substances affect brain pathways. I don’t see how the connection to marriage et al. can be made. There is no connection. Carry on.

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