The Will County Board will vote on restricting the sale of alternative nicotine products to those over the age of 18 at its next meeting.
The county judicial committee approved the ordinance Tuesday, so it now moves to the full county board. At the July county board meeting, members debated whether to put the age restriction at 18 or 21.
While the state’s age requirement is 21, the proposed county law would keep the age requirement at 18. Committee Chairman Tyler Marcum, D-Joliet, said the point of expanding the ordinance to include alternative nicotine products was to give resource officers at high schools in unincorporated areas more “teeth” in enforcing rules against students smoking.
The ordinance originally came up for discussion because Lincoln-Way School District 210, which has resource officers from the Will County Sheriff’s Office, wanted the ability to issue tickets to students who had tobacco or nicotine alternative products on school grounds.
“We’re trying to be a good government partner,” Marcum said.
Still, at last month’s county board meeting, some members voiced concerns about such violations putting students, especially those who were already 18, into legal jeopardy.
Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said during Tuesday’s meeting he felt keeping the age requirement at 18 was appropriate because he had a difficult time “treating adults as children.”
But Marcum pointed out that a violation of a county ordinance is a less serious offense than a state violation, and that the change is meant to give officials more discretion in how they deal with the issue.
“I don’t think they’re going to be chasing down kids,” Marcum said.
This year, the state government passed a law to increase the age limit to purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, chewing tobacco and other goods containing nicotine from 18 to 21. The law went into effect July 1.
Other local and nearby municipalities, including Plainfield, Bolingbrook, Aurora and Chicago, have raised the age to buy tobacco products to 21.
Proponents of increasing the age for buying smoking products to 21 say its meant to reduce teen smoking. According to the ordinance, almost 90% of all smokers begin smoking at or before 18. This also comes as products like e-cigarettes have become more popular among young people over the last few years.
The next Will County Board meeting is 9:30 a.m. Aug. 15, at the Will County Office Building, located at 302 N. Chicago St. in Joliet.