BLOOMINGTON — Legislation to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco in Illinois from 18 to 21 is well-intentioned but won't snuff out teen smoking.
That was a conclusion of a lung doctor and the owner of a tobacco products shop in separate interviews this week.
Committees in the Illinois Senate and House voted this week to prohibit the sale of tobacco or related products to anyone under 21. The current age is 18.
The legislation now goes to the floor of each chamber for consideration. The ban would include cigarettes, cigars, snuff and chew, and nicotine-based products such as e-cigarettes and vaping materials.
"As a lung doctor, I'm for it (the legislation)," said Dr. John Burr, pulmonologist with Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Normal.
"I'm not against trying because the single most detrimental thing to lung health is smoking," Burr said. "I'm in favor of anything that reduces lung disease."
"But I don't know that making it illegal will change things," Burr said. Many patients whom he has treated for lung disease start smoking with their peers at a young age, some as early as age 12, meaning they smoked illegally for years.
"What's in and out of fashion will have a bigger impact than whether it's illegal or not," he said. People determined to smoke will do so at a young age and will ask someone older to buy for them.
If the legislation becomes law and catches casual smokers who begin in their late teens, "that's a good thing," Burr said.
According to the 2017 County Health Rankings, 14 percent of McLean County adults were smokers.
"I don't think (the legislation) is a bad thing but it's an untested theory that (raising the minimum smoking age) will reduce smoking in younger people," Burr said. "It's naive to think it will wipe out smoking among people under 21. It (tobacco) is an accessible drug."
Jerry Jonen, owner of Smoker's Choice, 1212 Towanda Ave., Bloomington, said of the legislation "I don't think it's dead, dead wrong to do it.
"But I think 18 is old enough," Jonen said. "There are a lot of things you can do at 18 that are bigger decisions in life rather than whether to vape or smoke."
"The stuff is accessible," Jonen said of tobacco products. "What'll happen if the state sets it at 21 is we'll get the crossover purchase (people crossing state lines to buy cigarettes) and people buying for people who are underage. They'll get their hands on the product anyway."