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Illinois Restricts Access To Cigarettes For Youth

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today making it even more difficult for minors to purchase cigarettes in Illinois. Senate Bill 2546, sponsored by State Senator James Clayborne, Jr. (D – East St. Louis) and State Representative Daniel J. Burke (D – Chicago), prohibits all out of package sales of single or loose cigarettes. Often referred to as “onesies,” these single cigarettes are no longer protectively packaged and do not display the health warning label required by federal law.

The new law also prohibits tobacco vending machines in factories, businesses, offices, private clubs and other places not open to the general public. In addition, the new law makes it explicitly illegal for minors under 18 to use altered/fake IDs to buy cigarettes or other tobacco. The act will go into effect January 1, 2009.

“With this law, we are taking additional steps to make sure cigarettes stay out of the hands of our children,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Senate Bill 2546, along with the recently passed Smoke-Free Illinois Act, both help to move us closer to an Illinois where we can all breathe safely and easily.”

Blagojevich administration officials joined advocates in Chicago today to applaud Governor Blagojevich for signing this new law aimed at restricting the availability of cigarettes to minors in Illinois.

“Tobacco addiction can start at a very early age and public health experts agree, it is important to keep tobacco out of the hands of adolescents to avoid this. With the Governor's signature, this legislation will provide new tools for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission to ensure that tobacco retailers are not selling cigarettes to minors in the form of single cigarettes,” said Lainie Krozel, Executive Director of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. “Every day 3,000 young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers. If we can help stop minors from becoming addicted, even by one cigarette at a time, we will be helping to save lives.”

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The legislation signed by the Governor today amends the Sale of Tobacco to Minors Act. Those who violate the provisions of that act are guilty of a petty offense and for the first offense are fined $200, $400 for the second offense in a 12-month period and $600 for the third or any other subsequent offense in a 12-month period. The fine is levied against the clerk selling the tobacco product to the minor.

“This law was introduced to help ensure cigarettes stay out of the hands of the children of our state,” said Senator Clayborne. “It is important that we take the additional steps necessary to make sure that minors do not take that first puff.”

Each year, tobacco use kills more than 425,000 Americans – more than 19,000 of them in Illinois. Among Illinois’ youth, approximately one in six middle school students and one in three high school students use some form of tobacco product. It is estimated that a third of these young people will become regular smokers and could face an increased risk for smoking related death.

“Reducing youth access to tobacco products is a top priority of the American Lung Association because it results in fewer children becoming addicted to cigarettes for life,” said Harold P. Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of Illinois – Greater Chicago. “By further limiting vending machine sales and eliminating the sale of single or loose cigarettes, this new law helps us meet our mission to prevent lung disease and promote lung health.”

Successfully reducing youth access to tobacco products requires a variety of tactics including retailer education programs, personal visits from law enforcement authorities, the aid of State government, sustainable tobacco access control programs, community awareness and a climate that discourages youth tobacco use.

“The health of the children in our communities is of vital importance. Smoking can cause numerous health problems, such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and premature death,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Reducing exposure to tobacco for our children enhances their future well being.”

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission awards $1 million in grants annually to communities that chose to implement its Tobacco Enforcement Program.