Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Illinois. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Illinois calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21;
- Restore statewide funding for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts; and
- Continue to work to support smokefree air policies/laws in all workplaces, medical facilities, college campuses, multi-unit housing, parks, playgrounds, festivals, fairs, and other outdoor facilities.
The 2017 state legislative session was again fraught with overwhelming state budget issues. Health and human service programs, hospitals, public schools, colleges and universities and countless other programs continued to struggle to survive without payment and many more closed their doors forever. On July 4th, a budget passed the legislature with bipartisan votes but Governor Rauner immediately vetoed it. Finally, on July 6th, after an historic 737-day budget standoff, more than $15 billion in unpaid bills, and a total Capitol lockdown caused by a hazmat situation, a bi-partisan override provided the state with a budget.
In the new budget, the tobacco control/cessation/prevention programs were funded at the same level as in the past but then on October 3, 2017, Governor Rauner announced a 36 percent cut to fiscal year 2018 tobacco control programs at local public health departments which will result in fewer tobacco cessation programs and less promotion of the state tobacco quitline. Governor Rauner's cuts are particularly disturbing since the tobacco programs are not funded with taxpayer dollars, but with Tobacco Settlement Recovery dollars. The Tobacco Settlement Recovery Fund is where Illinois directs its annual tobacco Master Settlement Agreement payments.
A bill to increase the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products from 18 to 21 was assigned to a House committee but did not receive a hearing due to strong opposition from tobacco related lobby groups. Local Tobacco 21 laws passed in 2017 include Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove, Lake County, Lincolnshire, Maywood, Mundelein and Vernon Hills bringing the state total to 14 ordinances.
Unfortunately, the 2018 legislative session promises to include future budget gridlock as well as election year shenanigans. The American Lung Association in Illinois will continue to work with our partners to ensure tobacco control programs are funded and continue to pass Tobacco 21 local ordinances while continuing to work towards a statewide law. The Lung Association will continue to defend the Smoke Free Illinois Act from any weakening attempts and continue to create a norm of smokefree workplaces, multi-unit housing and outdoor recreational areas.