Rauner wrong to veto bill to raise legal age to buy cigarettes

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Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 24 vetoed a bill that would have raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. | AP file photo

On Aug. 24, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 2332, legislation that would have substantially reduced youth smoking and saved the state $2 billion dollars in future health care costs by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18 (“Rauner snuffs out bill to raise smoking age to 21“).

In doing so, the governor has taken a firm stance against protecting our youth, reducing the economic burden of tobacco use and building a more sustainable future for Illinois.

Rauner’s objections to this common-sense policy are based on falsehoods and the very language Big Tobacco has used to peddle cancer and poison our communities for decades.

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The first claim is that the bill will cause Illinois revenue losses. This argument places a higher value on money than young lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity. Tobacco 21 would dramatically reduce those costs by preventing lifelong addictions.

The second claim is that purchase, use and possession (PUP) penalties are an effective deterrent to youth smoking, and SB 2332’s removal of these penalties “will make it harder for communities to effectively address the public health issues connected to tobacco products.” Penalizing children has not been proven to be an effective strategy for reducing youth smoking. PUP laws are difficult to enforce and shift the blame away from the tobacco industry’s irresponsible marketing to youth and retailers’ irresponsible sales.

By vetoing Senate Bill 2332, Governor Rauner has failed to protect the children of Illinois.

Steven L. Victor, board chair

Joel Africk, president and CEO

Respiratory Health Association

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