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On Oct. 27, the Evanston City Council passed an ordinance to change the minimum age to purchase and sell tobacco products from 18 years of age to 21.

Under the new law, which becomes effective on November 8, 2014, it will be illegal for any person under the age of 21 to purchase or sell cigarettes, tobacco products, or liquid nicotine products (such as electronic cigarettes) in the City of Evanston. Reports estimate that 90 percent of tobacco products purchased for distribution to minors were by individuals under the age of 21.

“This is a major step toward decreasing young adult chronic tobacco use,” said Evonda Thomas-Smith, Director of the Evanston Health and Human Services Department. “It also shows great community leadership from Dr. Don Zeigler and Dr. Timothy Sandborn.”

All stores carrying tobacco and nicotine products are in the process of being notified of the change. The City of Evanston Health and Human Services Department is offering education on the policy’s background and enforcement strategies. It is also providing signage and any other assistive services that store owners need in order to comply with the new law.

The ordinance was first proposed in May 2014 by the Evanston Health Action Council (EHAC) in the wake of success from similar laws passed in New York City and several cities in Massachusetts. The Evanston Human Services Committee unanimously approved Ordinance (111-0-14) on October 6, which sent it to the City Council for approval.

The increase of the purchase and sale age for tobacco products is a movement that is picking speed across the country. Rob Crane, president of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, currently reports that 40 cities in six states have adopted the new policy and several more have the item on their agenda.

The reason for this change is to better protect Evanston’s youth from access to harmful tobacco products and prevent addictive habits from forming. “We know that tobacco use remains the major preventable cause of death in the U.S. and that 95 percent of all adult smokers begin and transition to regular smokers before they are 21,” said Dr. Donald Zeigler, chair of EHAC, in his address to the Health Services Committee.

Director Thomas-Smith additionally notes that Quitline services are available for those who want to quit smoking at 1-866-QUIT-YES (1-866-784-8937) or by visiting www.quityes.org.