Proposal to raise smoking age from 18 to 21 - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Proposal to raise smoking age from 18 to 21

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WSIL -- 10 years ago, Illinois became smoke-free, banning smoking in most public spaces. Now, lawmakers revealed they're working on new legislation, for even more tobacco control.

Illinois Democrats want to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. 

Since the mid 1950's, it's been known that smoking can cause serious health problems. Yet, our youth, continue to pick up the deadly habit. In Illinois, studies show more than 5,000 young people become new daily smokers every year. 
     
21 year-old Colin Clark-Dinovo says he supports any legislation that will reduce that number. 

"I think tobacco is just as dangerous to your health as alcohol is, if not more so. So I think the longer you push it back, maybe the less people will get addicted to it," said Clark- Dinovo. 

The National Institute of Medicine estimates by raising the minimum age to 21, Illinois would reduce smoking initiation as much as 25 percent. Lawmakers addressed their plans to do just that, in Springfield Tuesday. Senator Julie Morrison supports the "Tobacco 21" proposal. She thinks it will reduce healthcare costs across the state.

"We can identify from last year, $2 billion dollars in medicaid spending that is directly related to smoking diseases," said Sen. Morrison. 

But 25 year-old Taylor Byant doesn't think the law needs to be changed. She believes, if 18 year olds can vote or join the military, they should be able to do whatever they want.  Her solution is better communication about the dangers of smoking.

"We need to be having better education for those young teenagers to not get involved and start the habit early," said Bryant. 

But across the state, 87 percent support raising the age. In Southern Ilinois, that support was around 66 percent. 

Clark- Dinovo says lawmakers are on the right track and encouages them to keep pushing forward. 

"I say go for it. I think it's a good idea. The less people addicted to tobacco, the better," said Clark-Dinovo. 

Bills similar to "Tobacco 21" have already passed in five other states. Illinois lawmakers have not said when they could vote on the bill here.

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