Anti-Smoking Advocates Hope Illinois Law Will Lead To Changes In Wisconsin

Illinois' 'Tobacco 21' Law Takes Effect July 1

Newport, cigarettes, racial disparity
Bobby Caina Calvan/AP Photo

Anti-smoking advocates in Wisconsin said they hope a new law in Illinois will spur more public debate about this state’s policies.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure Sunday that sets the legal age for tobacco and e-cigarette sales at 21, effective July 1. Illinois is the eighth state in the nation to pass what’s known as a “Tobacco 21” law.

Wisconsin anti-smoking groups have said a similar law in this state would stop young would-be smokers and save lives.

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But Ginny Chadwick, of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, said Tobacco 21 movements usually start at the city and town level before there’s statewide action, and that’s unlikely to happen here.

“Wisconsin is one of the states that is preempted from working at a local level,” Chadwick said. “They’re not going to have local policies first to help pave the way.”

A search of the Legislature’s bill-tracking website shows no legislation calling for raising Wisconsin’s minimum age for tobacco sales to 21 in the current session.

Opponents of the law said it could spur sales of tobacco products in neighboring states where the minimum age is still 18.

Wisconsin could see some cross-border sales, according to Holly Jarman, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

She said while some people will likely cross into Wisconsin to purchase cigarettes that they can’t legally obtain in Illinois, it probably won’t be widespread.

“We know that people will do that in order to do things like avoid higher tobacco taxes,” Jarman said. “But there is a limit to how far people will drive to go get a tobacco product.”

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