SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House on Tuesday again voted to raise the smoking age in Illinois to 21.
The General Assembly last year approved a bill that would have raised the legal age for purchasing cigarettes, other tobacco products and e-cigarettes statewide, but then-Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. The new version passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 82-31.
A spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker did not directly comment on the bill, which still has to get through the Senate, but said the governor "believes in order to help build a healthy society we have to work to prevent young people from smoking."
"He looks forward to reviewing the legislation to raise the smoking age, spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.
While the bill would raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes and vaping products, it would do away with penalties for underage possession. Retailers still would be fined for selling restricted products to underage customers.
"This is a public health issue, not a criminal issue," said Democratic state Rep. Camille Lilly of Chicago, the bill's sponsor.
Opponents of the bill include the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and Illinois Association of Convenience Stores, and the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.
Some Republican lawmakers also raised objections, arguing that if 18-year-olds can vote and join the military, they should be able to decide whether to smoke.
"I think there's a point at which you have to say, 'You're either an adult or you are not,' " said state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, a Republican from downstate Jacksonville.
Notably, House GOP leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs voted in favor of the bill after "fighting it most of my career."
"I am supporting 'Tobacco 21' for the state of Illinois," Durkin said, noting the "epidemic" of teen vaping he believes the bill would help address.
Also counted among supporters of the legislation is Juul Labs, whose popular vaping devices were mentioned several times during the House debate.
"We applaud the Illinois House of Representatives for passing legislation to raise the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21 and we will continue to work with lawmakers in Illinois to get this policy signed into law," CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement.
The measure now moves to the state Senate, where lawmakers in November voted to override Rauner's veto of the previous version. The House never held an override vote.
Pritzker's spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1 includes $65 million in new revenue from proposals to increase the $1.98-per-pack cigarette tax by 32 cents and apply the state's wholesale tobacco tax to e-cigarettes. The governor's office did not respond to requests for comment on how raising the legal purchasing age would affect those revenue estimates.
Dozens of jurisdictions in Illinois, including Chicago and Cook County, already have raised the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.