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Governor signs law raising buying age for nicotine products to 21

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation Sunday, April 8, 2019, that will raise the buying age for nicotine products in Illinois to 21. | Jon Seidel/Chicago Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation Sunday that will raise the buying age for nicotine products in Illinois to 21.

The new law covers tobacco and vaping products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and vapes. It takes effect July 1.

Pritzker signed the bill at the Mile Square Health Clinic. He was joined there by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate President John Cullerton, as well as chief legislative sponsors Rep. Camille Lilly and Sen. Julie Morrison.

Before signing the bill, Pritzker noted that 1.5 million more young people used e-cigarettes in 2018 than in 2016. “We’re dealing with an old problem in a new form,” he said.

“Many are risking a lifetime addiction before being able to make an informed choice,” the governor said.

Emanuel acknowledged he has become “a zealot” on the issue, and he touted the drop in teen smoking in Chicago since the city raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 in 2016.

He offered this message to the tobacco companies: “Our kids are not part of your profit margin.”

The new law is the culmination of four years of legislative efforts. The bill once made its way to then-Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, but Rauner refused to sign the bill. Only the Senate was able to muster enough votes to overturn his veto.

This year, the bill cleared the Senate by a 39-16 vote, and the House by a vote of 82 to 31.

Opponents have said that if 18 is old enough to vote, serve on a jury, get married or draw up a will, it should be old enough to buy and smoke a cigarette.