Illinois lawmakers don't raise statewide legal age to buy tobacco to 21
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Illinois lawmakers don't raise statewide legal age to buy tobacco to 21, leaving Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto intact
Illinois 18-year-olds can keep buying cigarettes in many areas of the state, after lawmakers on Wednesday failed to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a measure that would have raised the statewide minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.
Under the tobacco legislation, it would have been illegal to sell tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and vaping devices, to anyone under the age of 21. Retailers who violated the law could have been fined, but the state would no longer have penalized those caught possessing tobacco while underage, under the plan.
Rauner vetoed the proposal over the summer, and lawmakers in the Illinois House did not override him. That likely kicks the issue into the term of Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, who takes office in January. Chicago already boosted the minimum legal tobacco age to 21 from 18 in 2016.
Republican state Rep. Allen Skillicorn of East Dundee, who opposed raising the smoking age, said 18-year-olds can get credit cards, buy cars and join the military. They should get to make choices, even if smoking is a “dirty, disgusting habit,” Skillicorn said.
“Let’s encourage them to make the right decision, not take away all their decisions,” Skillicorn said.
Supporters had hoped making the change would stop more young people from starting to smoke, saving lives and health care costs in the process. Lawmakers came up nine votes short of overriding Rauner in the House, but big Democratic wins on Election Day mean backers might find more favor in the Capitol next year.
Meanwhile, the House narrowly voted to approve an immigration bill Rauner vetoed in the heat of his re-election campaign. The measure would have set a deadline for processing visa applications aimed at assisting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, giving them federal protections if law enforcement certified they came forward and actively cooperated in prosecuting their case.
“This is a bill that is about allowing victims of crime to be able to be empowered enough to use their voice to report the crime,” Democratic state Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford said.
Rauner vetoed the proposal in August in southern Illinois, as he tried to get rural conservatives who back President Donald Trump behind his re-election.
“That ties the hands of law enforcement,” Rauner said at the time. “It can delay deportations that should otherwise occur.”
After the House override vote, Pritzker praised the move and called Illinois a “welcoming state.”
“The VOICES Act is critical legislation that protects immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and other crimes, and I’m proud to see it enacted into law,” he said.
The immigration override was one of a handful of final clashes between lawmakers and Rauner, who has spent much of his time after losing his re-election bid out of the public eye — in contrast to the frequent fights with the Democrat-controlled legislature that dominated his four-year term.
- Chicago Tribune