Government

Glen Ellyn, Wheaton consider limiting tobacco sales to 21 and older

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Glen Ellyn and Wheaton officials are looking at making it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 21.

The Glen Ellyn Village Board and Wheaton City Council discussed the proposal during meetings April 9. Aurora, Bolingbrook and Naperville are among area communities that have raised the minimum legal age for tobacco and nicotine sales to 21.

Tobacco 21 is a national campaign aimed at raising the legal age for these sales to 21. The Tobacco 21 campaign is produced and funded by the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, a public health nonprofit organization established in 1996.

Wheaton City Councilman Michael Barbier said he would be opposed to increasing the age to 21 for the possession and use of tobacco products.

"I don't think it's the city's right to monitor the possession and use of tobacco," he said. "And I think that enforcement [of it] would be kind of a nightmare."

Wheaton City Manager Michael Dzugan said he doesn't know of any communities that have restricted both the sale and possession of tobacco products.

"It would be very difficult to enforce," he said, agreeing with Barbier.

Councilwoman Suzanne Fitch said she thought the proposal was a "critical public health initiative."

"I'm glad to hear that there is a lot of momentum behind getting this done on a regional level," Fitch said. "Hopefully, in Springfield, they'll be able to get something done as well. I support the ordinance."

Legislation has been introduced to raise the age for the sale of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products statewide from 18 to 21.

Other City Council members, like John Prendiville, also voiced support for the proposal.

"I think that one of the key statistics is that 95 percent of all smokers start before they are 21," he said. "My father was a smoker and smoked three packs of Lucky Strikes a day. He used to get up in the middle of the night to have a cigarette, he was so addicted to it. He started when he was probably 18, 19 or 20 years old and died an early death, so it's an issue that hits home for me. I think if we can stop kids from doing that, I think it's an appropriate thing to do."

Councilman John Rutledge said his only concern was if Wheaton raised the minimum legal age for tobacco and nicotine sales to 21 and other surrounding communities like Glen Ellyn didn't.

Council members agreed the proposal should include vaping products.

Glen Ellyn village officials also discussed the issue, and they plan to discuss it more at their April 16 Village Board workshop meeting. Village President Diane McGinley said she supported the proposal.

"Part of our job is [protecting] the health and safety of the public," McGinley said.

Trustees are considering amending the village's code regulating tobacco products. The amendment would redefine the meaning of tobacco products to include alternative nicotine products, such as liquid nicotine used for vaping. In addition, retailers would be prohibited from selling tobacco products to people younger than 21.

"This does not prohibit the possession or purchase of tobacco products for persons between the ages of 18 and 21," Village Manager Mark Franz said.

The ordinance would impact about 15 licensed tobacco retailers in the village, Franz said.

Trustee Mark Senak was in support of the new restrictions.

"This is a public heath issue," he said. "I don't think that there is any doubt that medically or in anybody's mind, that cigarette smoking is bad ,and it's even worse when it begins at the age of the kids we see in front of us," Senak said, in addressing the high school students who spoke at the meeting in support of the change.

Trustee Peter Ladesic, however, said he didn't support reducing the "rights of young adults."

"If you're 18 and you can go and defend our country, I certainly do not want to erode your rights as an adult," he said.

Trustee Gary Fasules said he also was against the idea.

"I'm not going to take away the person's right," he said.

Trustee John Kenwood said he would be in favor of the proposed new restrictions, but the village first needs to hear from the merchants that would be affected by such a change.

"I think we owe it to these businesses to have a conversation with them and see what their input is," he said.