Naperville Raises Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21

Posted: 12/6/2016

The Naperville City Council approved raising the minimum purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 21 in a 6-3 vote Monday.

The new ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1 for the purchase of cigarettes. The age for buying alternative tobacco products, including hookah and vaping substances, goes to 21 the following Jan. 1..

Several council members were concerned raising the minimum age for hookah and vaping too quickly would hurt the fairly new and smaller businesses that specialize in those products.

Those selling tobacco products must adhere to the ordinance or face fines of between $100 and $500. Council members made it clear they did not want to directly penalize individuals for smoking.

Naperville police Detective Dan Riggs said in the past 16 years, he has never seen a citation issued to an underage buyer of cigarettes, as it is the establishment or individual selling the cigarettes who faces consequences. Raising the age also won't require any additional enforcement work for the police department, Riggs said.

Katy Leclair, CEO of 360 Youth Services, said the move will help keep people from becoming addicted to tobacco at a young age. Currently, she said, many underage high school students who smoke get the tobacco products from school friends who are 18.

"If the purchase age moves to 21, it will limit the number of interactions, and therefore opportunities, underage youth have to make unhealthy decisions with tobacco products," Leclair said.

While Councilman John Krummen said he didn't think raising the purchasing age would have any practical effect, as it wouldn't keep people age 18 to 21 from going to neighboring municipalities to buy cigarettes, he voted to approve the ordinance.

Councilmen Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher and Paul Hinterlong voted against it..

"Is it naive for us to think we are making a dent in the people under the age of 21 who are smoking," Coyne said.

Hinterlong said it was a "rights issue" for him. He questioned how the city can have the trust in 18-year-olds to do things like vote, join the military and get married, but not purchase a pack of cigarettes.

"I just don't feel this is the place it should be done," Hinterlong said. "It should be done downstate or higher."

Councilwoman Judith Brodhead disagreed, saying Naperville has helped lead the way to statewide action in the past.

"I don't think we can rely on the state to lead in an area like this," Brodhead said.

Reported by: Erin Hegarty, Naperville Sun, December 6, 2016