Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Tobacco 21 bill short House votes

By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD – The Senate was able to get enough votes to pass a bill to ban anyone under 21 from getting tobacco and vaping products, but there might not be enough votes in the House to get the bill passed over the governor’s veto.

Lawmakers are back in Springfield on Tuesday for the final week of the session. They’re moving through several dozen vetoes the governor issued earlier this year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the Tobacco 21 measure. He said “raising the age people can purchase tobacco products will push residents to buy tobacco products from non-licensed vendors or in neighboring states.”

“Furthermore, the existing penalty that this legislation removes for minors possessing tobacco is reasonable, provides the opportunity for education on the harmful effects of tobacco products, and is a disincentive for tobacco use,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “Eliminating this penalty will make it harder for communities to effectively address the public health issues connected to tobacco products.”

Regardless, the Senate overrode the veto of the Tobacco 21 bill, Senate Bill 2332, earlier this month.

Upper Limits vape shop manager Jon Sharp in Springfield said the measure said vaping can help people quit smoking cigarettes.

“We already consider under the law 18 year olds to be adults,” Sharp said. “So the idea telling an 18 year old they can buy a house, they can serve in the military but they can’t access tobacco harm reduction seems backward.”

State Rep. Robert Martwick, one of the cosponsors of the bill in the House, said it initially passed with 61 votes. Lawmakers need 71 votes to override.

“I hope that we can garner the votes, but I think it’s a stretch to think we can pick up another ten,” Martwick said.

Martwick, D-Chicago, said Rauner didn’t really lean on lawmakers to oppose the bill initially. Martwick said that signified to him that it’s more about the policy.

“I think people who voted on Tobacco 21, that’s where they stand on this issue,” Martwick said. “So I don’t know that there’s going to be after almost two years of advocates trying to get people on board on this, I don’t know if it’s possible to pick up another ten. Again I hope it is, I know they’ve been working it, but I think it would be a long shot.”

If the House doesn’t act, the bill dies. It could come back next year.

This is the final week of the 100th General Assembly before lawmakers close up shop. The 101st General Assembly will be seated in January.

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