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Lake in the Hills board raises age to buy tobacco to 21; similar measure headed to governor for approval

LITH raises sale age of tobacco; Illinois Senate passes similar measure

Devices, including e-cigarettes, juuls, liquid vapor pens, marijuana grinders and pipes, and more are on display for people to see and handle during a State of Addiction presentation by the McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition  on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake.
Devices, including e-cigarettes, juuls, liquid vapor pens, marijuana grinders and pipes, and more are on display for people to see and handle during a State of Addiction presentation by the McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake.

Larry Goldstein, a Lake in the Hills resident who operates three vape shops in McHenry County, said during Thursday’s Lake in the Hills Village Board meeting that ordinance changes raising the age to buy tobacco and electronic cigarette products to 21 in the village makes no sense.

Not only would the ordinance hurt sales in the local businesses that sell such products, but there also are concerns about the regulation of this ordinance, Goldstein said. The ordinance also has the potential to be challenged in court, as it has been in other municipalities that have approved similar measures, he added.

However, the board voted, 4-2, to approve the ordinance amendments, making Lake in the Hills the first municipality in McHenry County to adopt a local “Tobacco 21” initiative.

Trustees Bill Dustin, who felt the amendments were overreaching, and Stephen Harlfinger voted against the measure.

In addition to raising the purchasing age, the ordinance also expands definitions of “tobacco products” to include e-cigarettes, alternative nicotine products and liquid nicotine.

After hearing from Goldstein, Harlfinger questioned some of the loopholes such a simple definition could leave the village open to, such as the sale of vape products using liquids without nicotine. He also questioned the amount of outreach toward local tobacco and vape distributors.

A motion made to continue discussion of the ordinance to the board’s next set of meetings was defeated by a 2-4 vote, with Dustin and Harlfinger voting in favor of the motion. After continued discussion, a motion was made to reconsider continuing the agenda item, but that motion also was defeated.

The measure was to allow time for continued outreach to area tobacco and e-cigarette retailers and to allow Village Attorney Brad Stewart to look into potential legal disputes other municipalities with Tobacco 21 initiatives have experienced.

After the vote, Harlfinger said he would look into an ordinance change that would prohibit smoking on school grounds.

Although Lake in the Hills joined more than 30 Illinois municipalities, including Chicago, that have adopted their own Tobacco 21 initiatives, a four-year effort by lawmakers and advocates to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products in Illinois appears nearly complete now that legislation approved by both chambers of the General Assembly is heading to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

The Senate successfully passed the bill Thursday by a mostly party-line vote. It received the backing of only one Republican. 

Pritzker has not said definitively whether he will sign “Tobacco 21,” which changes the age to buy products containing nicotine – including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes and chewing tobacco, among others – from 18 to 21. 

In an emailed statement, his spokeswoman said Pritzker “looks forward to reviewing the legislation.” 

But supporters of the initiative are optimistic that the Democratic governor will sign the bill into law, unlike former Gov. Bruce Rauner, who vetoed a similar measure last year. 

“Thankfully, we’ve got a new governor and a new chance to right past wrongs and make Illinois a healthier state,” Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat and ardent supporter of the legislation, said in a news release.

If Pritzker signs the bill, Illinois would become the eighth state in the nation, and the first state in the Midwest, to have such a law on the books.

Cullerton was on the floor of the House when that chamber approved the Tobacco 21 legislation with bipartisan support Tuesday. The final vote in the House was 82 to 31. 

Sens. Don DeWitte, Dan McConchie and Craig Wilcox all voted against the bill.

Reps. Steven Reick, Allen Skillicorn, Dan Ugaste and Tom Weber all voted no on the bill. Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, voted yes.

Opponents made the same two arguments they have in committee hearings and in the House. First, that if 18 is old enough to get married, vote in a political election, open a bank account and join the military, it should be old enough to buy and smoke a cigarette.

State Sen. Julie Morrison pointed out the U.S. Department of Defense is going tobacco-free by 2020 and a national group of hundreds of retired senior military officers, called Mission: Readiness, supports the Tobacco 21 bill out of concern for the readiness of new recruits for the armed forces.

“I think this speaks volumes about what the military would, in fact, want for its members,” Morrison said.

The legislation is House Bill 345. The final vote in the Senate on Thursday was 39 to 16.

• Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

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