Oak Park may increase tobacco sale age to 21

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Photo credit: independent.co.uk

Raising the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 could happen soon in Oak Park. Evanston has already made it a law and Chicago is considering to follow in the footsteps of Evanston, Boston, New York, and other cities alike.

“If Evanston can do it, why can’t we do it,” said Oak Park Township Trustee Jim Taglia.

Taglia saw news about Evanston raising the age in 2014 and then decided to adopt the “Tobacco 21” initiative. He told Wednesday Journal that Oak Park Township’s mission is to keep kids from getting involved with tobacco or drugs.

Proponents of the proposal say that increasing the age from 18 years old will reduce the number of smokers from starting and will decrease the number of underage smokers trying to buy tobacco products. These proponents of the proposal are expected to go to the village board within the next few weeks.

Florence Miller, chair of the Board of Health, told Wednesday Journal that her panel has been working on the issue for much time this year. The board has reviewed numerous studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine and others.

“Any recommendations we give for an ordinance are evidence-based,” she said. “Upwards of 90 percent of people who self-report smoking started before they were 18 and 95 percent before they were 21.”

Miller noted that this initiative would be a step forward; more than 100 cities across the U.S. have adopted the “Tobacco 21” initiative.

In January 2015, the township put in a request to the village which said, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, that “many smokers transition to regular, daily use between the ages of 18 and 21; many young adult smokers serve as a social source of tobacco products for youth; and tobacco companies have long viewed young adults ages 18 to 21 as a target market group.”

The board has recently surveyed business owners in Oak Park who might be impacted from the initiative and their input will be included in the request. However, Miller told Wednesday Journal that she anticipates the health board will move forward with the recommendation. Miller also said that raising the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 would only reduce sales by roughly two to three percent.

The request will be submitted to the board of trustees within the next few weeks, and the issue may be brought before the board as early as next month or April.

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