WILMETTE – The minimum age to purchase tobacco in Wilmette has increased from 18 to 21 years of age. The village board unanimously approved an ordinance by consent at its meeting on March 13, joining 13 other Cook County municipalities including Chicago, Evanston, Highland Park and Deerfield.
Since Chicago increased the minimum age in July 2016, the percentage of Chicago residents ages 18 to 20 years old who reported using cigarettes or e-cigarettes fell from 15.2 percent in 2015 to 9.7 percent in 2016, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Village officials are hopeful the new ordinance will have a similar effect. “In doing this we are hopeful Wilmette can join other communities in making a meaningful impact,” Trustee Senta Plunkett said.
While Wilmette regulates the sale of tobacco, the state has authority over the possession of tobacco. Currently, state legislators are considering increasing the state minimum age to 18 as well. In Wilmette, 14 businesses sell tobacco ranging from gas stations and convenience stores, to the golf course and a dedicated tobacco and cigar store on Skokie Boulevard.
According to studies cited by the village board, near 25 percent of smokers in the Midwest are under 18 years old. More importantly, 90 percent of those who provide tobacco to underage people are under the age of 21.
Plunkett, who serves on the Judiciary Committee that recommended the ordinance, was described by President Bob Bielinski as a champion of the change. Plunkett noted the board received unequivocal support of the ordinance.
“We had no push back, we only had support. This may have been one of the easiest things that the village board handled over the last couple of years,” Plunkett said.
Until state legislators decide to act, Plunkett encouraged neighboring communities to join Wilmette and consider raising the minimum age to 21.