Illinois just became the first state in the Midwest to ban cigarettes, vaping, and other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco for those under the age of 21. Currently, Illinois residents must be 18 to purchase tobacco products. Like most states considering raising the legal age for vapers, the goal of the state’s lawmakers is to make it more difficult for teens to get their hands on e-cigarettes.
Beginning on July 1, 2019, vape shops and convenience stores will be checking IDs the same way they do for alcohol purchases. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzer told Chicago’s WGN, “We’re dealing with an old problem in a new form.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also supported the new law, says the goal is to prevent another generation from becoming addicted to tobacco. “I just have one message to the tobacco companies: our kids are not part of your profit margin. Keep your hands off of them.”
Lawmakers say the measure is necessary because of the addictive properties of cigarettes, and the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among teens. Nearly 1 in 5 high school students have used e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The so-called “IL Tobacco 21 law” is the first in the Midwest, and the eighth in the U.S. to ban e-cigarettes for those under age 21.
The bill marks a victory for the tobacco companies, whose biggest competition is the upstart vaping industry. But while the vaping industry is generally supportive of “Tobacco 21” laws, many say it is unfair for vaping products to be lumped in with cigarettes. They may have a point. A significant number of studies have found e-cigarettes to be safer than smoking. The FDA is eyeing e-cigarettes to help smokers quit, looking to fast-track and classify some vaping products as Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) (like the nicotine patch or nicotine gum) due to their effectiveness in helping smokers quit. And many promising studies, including one reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, have found that e-cigarettes can double a smoker’s chances of quitting.
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