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County increases minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to 21

On Sept. 12, the Lake County Board approved changes to its tobacco ordinance to increase the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to 21, according to a news release from the Lake County Health Department.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, individuals in unincorporated Lake County must be at least 21 years old to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

“This is a major milestone in our efforts to prevent tobacco use among our youth,” Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said in a news release. “Each year, an estimated 6,300 Illinois youth start daily smoking habits. This is detrimental to their health and well-being.”

Lake County is the first county in the state to raise the minimum legal sale age to 21 in unincorporated areas. To date, five Lake County communities – Deerfield, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Vernon Hills and Buffalo Grove – are among 11 municipalities in the state to adopt Tobacco 21 ordinances.

“Passing Tobacco 21 today is another example of Lake County’s commitment to leading the state and nation on the critical issues related to behavioral health,” Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said in a news release. “Whether it’s mental health challenges, opioids, or tobacco, we have a responsibility to deliver science-based and proven solutions that help people stay healthy.”

Tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States and is responsible for 480,000 deaths annually, the news release stated. Studies have identified that 95 percent of adult tobacco users started before the age of 21. Policies raising the minimum legal smoking age of tobacco help delay the onset of smoking by increasing the social distance between those who can buy tobacco and youth still attending secondary school. A 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine identified that raising the MLSA of tobacco products lowers the rate of youth ages 15 to 17 who start smoking by 25 percent.

“We commend our County Board for taking this important step and approving Lake County’s Tobacco 21 ordinance,” Pfister said in the news release. 

“We hope that this action will inspire other communities, counties, and our state to take action to prevent youth smoking, improve health and save the lives of our future generations.”

The Lake County Health Department’s Tobacco Free Lake County program offers education and technical assistance to municipalities considering Tobacco 21 policies.

For information about tobacco sales restrictions and regulations, call Tobacco Free Lake County at 847-377-8090. 

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