The Will County Board tabled a decision to expand restrictions on buying alternative nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes.
At its meeting Thursday, the board discussed amending the county’s ordinance on tobacco product sales to also ban possession of alternative nicotine products by minors. But some members wanted to better define who is a minor when it comes to buying tobacco in light of recent law changes.
As of July 1, the legal age to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, chewing tobacco and other goods containing nicotine in the state of Illinois increased from 18 to 21. Several other municipalities throughout the state, including Plainfield, Bolingbrook, Aurora and Chicago, have also raised the age requirement to buy to 21.
But some board members also were wary of putting legal adults younger than 21 in legal jeopardy.
“I don’t believe that we can legislate morality,” said Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook.
Other board members also were critical of raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21, saying that it was unfair that they could risk their lives in the military but not smoke a cigarette. Traynere said that she would be in favor of other ways of discouraging smoking.
Will County Health Department Executive Director Susan Olenek said this was a public health issue. The ordinance said almost 90% of all smokers begin smoking at or before age 18 and that youths who use e-cigarettes and vaping products are more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes.
“The thought being if we can prevent this whole group of people from starting smoking, we’ve done a good thing,” Olenek said. “We’ve improved their health for the rest of their lives.”
She said that vaping has become a bigger problem in schools, as young people who would not have taken up smoking, now are using e-cigarettes.
The ordinance came up for discussion because Lincoln-Way School District 210, which has resources officers from the Will County Sheriff’s Office, wanted to better enforce rules against smoking and vaping.
District spokeswoman Jen Hannon said Superintendent R. Scott Tingley wanted the ordinance change so that the resource officers can issue tickets to students who have tobacco or nicotine alternative products on school grounds.
The district code already prohibits smoking and vaping, but student discipline for violations is handled by the district.