QUINCY -- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker didn't come out and say he would sign legislation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, but he said it made sense to him.
"For some time, I've said that one of my highest priorities is the health and safety of our children and that smoking is a leading cause of a whole list of other health problems that are not only bad for the people that are smoking, but they're also very expensive for the people of the state," Pritzker told The Herald-Whig Thursday afternoon. "So whatever we can do to keep cigarettes and tobacco products out of the hands of minors and people under 21 makes sense to me."
The Illinois Senate voted 39-16 Thursday to send the bill to Pritzker's desk for approval. Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, did not vote on the proposal as she was visiting the Illinois Veterans Home with Pritzker and Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Acting Director Linda Chapa LaVia.
The House passed the legislation Tuesday with an 82-31 vote. Local lawmakers, Rep. Randy Frese, R-Paloma; Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, and Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, voted no.
Illinois would join Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Virginia in increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. Several communities in the state, including Chicago, Normal, Barrington and Hoffman Estates, have already increased the age to buy tobacco products.
Legislation to increase the legal age was approved by the General Assembly last year, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Legislation sponsor Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, said the legislation would help keep tobacco products out of high school students by preventing younger adults from purchasing them for others
"Limiting the availability of tobacco products has a direct effect on smoking rates among young teenagers, especially those who are 14, 15, 16 or 17 years old," Morrison said. "The more we limit the availability of tobacco for teens, the lower the chance they have of developing a lifetime addiction that disproportionally affects the adolescent brain and costs state government billions of dollars annually."
The new legislation would take effect July 1.