Tobacco 21​

What is Tobacco 21?
Tobacco 21 is the raising of the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Take the Tobacco 21 Survey

Why Tobacco 21?
Illinois has a slightly below average rate of high school smoking, an improvement from 2016, but a near identical rate of adult smoking, compared to national rates. Given its high population, this means that 230,000 children now under the age of 18 will die prematurely from smoking, with 6,300 children becoming daily smokers each year. The state spends only 8.9% of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention, this is almost a 100% increase from funding in 2016. However, this is still a low level of funding given the $5.49 billion in annual health care costs that are directly caused by smoking, and the $5.27 billion in lost productivity. The state has a modest tax per pack at $1.98, but special consideration needs to be given to the combined state-county-city tax rates in the Chicago area, where the majority of the state’s population resides. The combination of these three rates results in the highest per pack tax in the nation, $6.16. State law contains no preemption language regarding youth access to tobacco, which provides the opportunity for a powerful prevention strategy, including the high tax rate and a tobacco age of 21.

The Arguments you may hear

If at 18 we can fight for our country, we should be able to purchase tobacco.
The minimum age of military service does not equal readiness to enlist in a lifetime of smoking. The U.S. Army Surgeon General says soldiers who smoke are less combat ready and take longer to heal. Years of studies, including a comprehensive study on 9.3 million military beneficiaries, have revealed lung cancer mortality rates are double among Veterans. Veterans who served to protect our freedom but contracted emphysema from addiction to the discounted cigarettes in the military have lost their freedom.

We will go out of business.
When Needham increased the sales age to 21 in 2005 not a single convenience store went out of business. Restaurant and bar owners had the same fear when smoking was banned, and this did not happen. Tobacco sales to 18-20 year olds are only 2% of retail tobacco sales. CVS and Target have decided to stop selling all tobacco products, leaving more tobacco business for convenience stores.

We make our profits from the ancillary purchases (milk and bread) when people come in to buy cigarettes.
98% of tobacco sales and all associated ancillary purchases will be unaffected. 18-20 year olds will have more money for other in-store purchases that are not tobacco.

They will just go to other towns and we will lose business.
Lower smoking rates are better for business. A city or town that creates fewer smokers will have higher socioeconomic status, better health status, better jobs, and better quality of life for all residents. Research has shown a minimal retail impact of raising the sales age to 21. Each town that goes to 21 increases the likelihood that the surrounding towns will also to go to 21. Small decreases in youth access to retail tobacco are strongly associated with lower tobacco use. The key point is that youth will quit or use less tobacco, and those who don’t smoke are less likely to start.

Tobacco 21 news in Illinois

  • 4/24/2018 – Peoria passes Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 4/24/2018 – Glen Ellyn passes Tobacco 21 ordinance (under Bolingbrook)
  • 3/15/2018 – Hopkins Park passes Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 3/27/2018 - Aurora passes Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 3/20/2018 – Gurnee passes Illinois’ 18th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 3/16/2018 – Bolingbrook passes Illinois’ 17th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 3/13/2018 – Wilmette passes Illinois’ 16th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 2/20/2018 – Riverwoods passes Illinois’ 15th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 11/27/2017- Mundelein passes Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 11/15/2017-Elk Grove passes Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 9/12/2017 – Lake County (unincorporated) passes Illinois’ 12th Tobacco 21 ordinance; effective January 1, 2018
  • 8/21/2017 – Buffalo Grove passes Illinois’ 11th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 8/19/2017 – Berwyn passes Illinois’ 10th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 8/1/2017 – Vernon Hills passes Illinois’ 9th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 6/13/2017 – Lincolnshire passes Illinois’ 8th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 5/3/2017 – The City of Maywood passes Illinois’ 7th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 2/9/2017 – Representative Melissa Conyears-Ervin introduces House Bill 3208, the bill would raise the age of sales for all tobacco products to 21; referred to House Rules Committee
  • 12/12/2016 – Deerfield passes Illinois’ 6th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 12/6/2016 – Naperville passes Illinois’ 5th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 10/12/2016 – Highland Park passes Illinois’ 4th Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 8/1/2016 – Oak Park passes Illinois’ 3rd Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 5/29/2016 – Senate Bill 3011 assigned to Health and Human Services Committee
  • 5/18/2016 – Senate Bill 3011 passes Senate by 32-22 vote, on to the Assembly!
  • 4/5/2016 – Senate Bill 3011 passes Public Health Committee
  • 3/16/2016 – Senate Bill 3011 referred to public health committee
  • 3/16/2016 – Chicago passes state’s second Tobacco 21 ordinance
  • 2/18/2016 – Senate Bill 3011 introduced, which would raise Illinois’s tobacco sales age to 21
  • 1/12/2016 – Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduces Tobacco 21 to Chicago
  • 10/27/2014 – Evanston raises tobacco age to 21, becomes first city in state to adopt Tobacco 21

Links & Resources

Tobacco 21 Toolkit
Tobacco 21 Enforcement Memo
Tobacco 21 Presentations
Tobacco 21 Success Stories
Tobacco 21 in Congress

Tobacc​o Program Pages

Tobacco Home



Smoke-Free Housing 

Healthcare Providers Info 

Smoke-Free Illinois Act 

Tobacco Twenty-One