Highland News Leader

Highland tobacco sales now limited to 21 and up, matching state law

Highland has changed its ordinance to forbid the sale of tobacco to minors under the age of 21, following the new state law.

In April, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill barring tobacco sales to people under 21 statewide, which made Illinois the first state in the Midwest to do so. But individual communities often have their own ordinances regarding tobacco sales, and Highland’s City Council voted Sept. 3 to update theirs.

The previous Highland ordinance had defined “minor” as a person under the age of 18, which included cigars, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and alternative nicotine products. The law also includes e-cigarettes in all forms, according to a memo from Highland Police Chief Christopher Conrad.

Councilman Richard Frey clarified that if a 16-year-old was charged under the state law, it goes on their permanent juvenile record. But if they are charged under the city ordinance, it does not.

“A first-time offender doesn’t need to start a permanent juvenile record for smoking,” Frey said.

“I am pleased that the chief of police and city attorney continue to stay on top of these issues and changes in the law,” said councilman John Hipskind. “While I am fearful it will result in an increase in ordinance violations given to those who are underage and in possession, if it discourages even one kid from taking up these bad habits, it will be worth it to me.”

The city of Chicago had raised the legal purchasing age to 21 in 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune, and saw a 36-percent decline in use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes among 18-20-year-olds. More than 30 other Illinois municipalities had followed suit before the law extended statewide. Most were concentrated in the Chicago area of the state.

As of last month, 18 states and 480 individual municipalities have raised the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, which encompasses approximately one-half of the U.S. population, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The state has also raised the tax on cigarettes to $2.98 a pack. Smoking is now prohibited in all government and private workplaces, restaurants and bars, casinos, retail stores and cultural facilities, and e-cigarettes are prohibited on public higher education campuses and state capitol grounds as well.

As of 2017, approximately 15.5 percent of Illinois adults smoked, according to the Truth Initiative. Approximately 13.2 percent of high school students stated they had used electronic vapor cigarettes at least once in the past month. Nearly half of daily smokers in Illinois attempted to quit in 2017.

Illinois received $1.06 billion in tobacco settlement funds and allocated $9.1 million to tobacco use prevention in fiscal year 2019, which is less than 10 percent the amount recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control, according to statistics from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In the last week, health officials have announced a mysterious illness they believe is tied to vaping, with 450 possible cases in 33 states and five deaths. A joint investigation by health department officials in Wisconsin and Illinois found a “newly recognized and worrisome cluster of pulmonary disease” tied to vaping use, according to the Washington Post.

The city council vote was unanimous in favor of the ordinance change, according to city manager Mark Latham.