SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to strengthen state laws that limit youth access to tobacco products, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation to require cigarette packs be kept out-of-reach behind sales counters and to prohibit minors under the age of 16 from selling any tobacco products.
“Despite the documented health risks associated with tobacco use, we know many of our youth will try smoking and that casual experimentation can quickly develop into a regular habit,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “It is our duty as parents to educate our children about the risks of smoking and our duty as adults to make sure it is not easy for them to obtain this highly addictive product. Studies have found that more than 80 percent of all adult smokers became regular smokers before they could legally purchase cigarettes.”
Before the Governor signed House Bill 4302, there were no restrictions on how single cigarette packs could be displayed or on the age of those selling tobacco products. HB 4302 is sponsored by Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) and Sen. James Meeks (I-Chicago).
"Cigarettes must be kept as unavailable as possible," said Senator Meeks. "By keeping them physically out-of-reach and by not allowing our youth to come into contact by even selling such items, hopefully we can reduce the experimentation that too often leads to a full-time addiction."
House Bill 4302 requires that single pack cigarettes be kept behind a counter or in a locked display so minors cannot access the product, and other tobacco products must be in view of the store’s salesperson. The bill also stipulates a person selling tobacco products must be 16 years of age or older. The age requirement was added to help eliminate the problem of peer pressure that occurred when an underage clerk was asked to sell cigarettes to friends or peers under age 18, the legal age to purchase tobacco products in the state.
"I am pleased to have sponsored a bill that prevents our youth from accessing tobacco products. This legislation could be the 'stop sign' that keeps a child from starting smoking. Any way we can provide a disincentive to start smoking goes a long way toward eliminating the potential for tobacco addiction,” said Rep. Yarbrough.
“Symptoms of tobacco addiction, such as having a strong urge to smoke, feeling anxious or irritable or unsuccessfully trying not to smoke, can appear in young kids within weeks or days after occasional smoking first begins,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “By reducing access to cigarettes we can hopefully delay or stop youth from taking that first puff.”
HB 4302 is effective January 1st, 2005.