Subcommittee recommends council increase tobacco sales age

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

An Evanston subcommittee recommended Monday that City Council increase Evanston’s required age to legally sell and buy tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21.

The Human Services Committee vote was unanimous. If approved by council, retailers would no longer be able to sell tobacco or liquid nicotine products to anyone under 21.

City Code would be amended to increase the age of sale, purchase and possession of tobacco or liquid nicotine products in Evanston.

“As a parent of two Evanston residents who are of voting age, 18 and 20 years old, I have no regret about taking away their right to buy cigarettes in Evanston,” Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said.

Two doctors on the Evanston Health Advisory Council spoke to the committee, along with Health Department Director Evonda Thomas-Smith, about the benefits of increasing the legal age.

Dr. Timothy Sanborn said adolescents are more susceptible to nicotine addiction, which is why the Evanston Health Advisory Council is targeting this age group. The health council voted unanimously to recommend the age increase to the committee.

Communities in Massachusetts, Hawaii and New York have increased the legal age to 21 already, Dr. Don Zeigler said. Zeigler said that a community in Massachusetts was able to reduce its high school smoking rates by half since 2005, which was more than neighboring cities who did not have similar laws.

Sanborn said the city’s economy would not be significantly impacted by the loss in income from tobacco and nicotine products. Only 2 percent of U.S. cigarette sales are credited to the 18 to 21-year-old age group, he said. In addition, in the 33 Massachusetts communities that have adopted this law, no retailers have gone out of business because they couldn’t sell cigarettes.

Grover noted CVS had recently decided not to sell tobacco products in their stores. The corporation predicted they would lose $2 billion by discontinuing tobacco sales, but the long-term benefits to the corporation would outweigh that revenue loss, Grover said.

Evanston was one of the first communities in Illinois to ban smoking in public places, work sites, bars and restaurants, Zeigler said. Evanston would be the first municipality in Illinois to increase the age if the ordinance passes council.

“Historically, Evanston has been at the forefront in protecting public health and addressing the tobacco pandemic,” Zeigler said. “The rest of the state of Illinois will follow us.”

The committee also accepted a report from the Board of Animal Control. Committee moved to authorize the establishment of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The Board of Animal Control, which held its first meeting on Aug. 4, is geared toward relaying issues to council on animal control and the Evanston Animal Shelter. Since its first meeting, the board has been working on the direction of the shelter’s future.

“The shelter’s role in our community is integral to the quality of life that Evanstonians have come to appreciate and expect,” said Meredith Rives, chair for the Board of Animal Control.

Rives said the board sought to obtain establishment of a 501(c)(3) to help enhance fundraising efforts in part for the shelter.

The nonprofit organization will be called the Evanston Animal Shelter Foundation, Rives said.

“It’s all headed in a good direction and in a very deliberate way,” Grover said.

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