Age to buy tobacco products increased to 21 in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The age to legally purchase cigarettes and tobacco products in Chicago is now 21 instead of 18.

The Chicago City Council approved the age increase Wednesday along with other efforts to combat illegal tobacco sales. The new ordinance enacts higher taxes including 20 cents per cigar, $1.80 per ounce for smokeless and smoking tobacco and 60 cents per ounce for pipe tobacco.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office estimates the taxes will bring in about $6 million annually. His office says the money will be spent on an orientation program for freshmen at Chicago high schools.

Separately aldermen approved on a voice vote a ban on chewing tobacco at professional and amateur sporting events.

Cubs ace Jake Arrietta does it, so do many other Major League Baseball players. But chewing tobacco at Wrigley and U.S. Cellular fields is now against the law.

Chicago became the fourth city in the country to knock smokeless tobacco products out of the park.

"Major League Baseball is lagging behind on this issue, and it's time for elected officials to act in public interest," said Ald. Ed Burke, Finance Committee chairman.

Although, Alderman Tom Tunney whose 44th Ward includes Wrigley, said he doubts the new chew law will be enforced.

"It's going to be hard to regulate, but I think it sends the right message, even some of the players would like to see it banned

While Tunney supports the chewing tobacco ban at sports stadiums, he was one of 10 aldermen who voted against the measure raising the smoking age.

to 21 and taxing, some based on size, non cigarette products, such as cigars, roll your own, pipe, and smokeless tobaccos...tunney and retailers oppose the tax part...

"Higher taxes, higher prices, that sends customers outside of the city into Indiana to buy these products," said Tanya Triche, VP/general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

"The idea of being able to regulate size and tax, that is an over-reach," Tunney said.

Besides a revenue opportunity, City Council's target on big tobacco is all part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to create Chicago's first tobacco-free generation.

"Chicago now has one of the lowest teen smoking rates across the country," he said.

Officials say 10.7 percent of Chicago high school students were smokers in 2013, down from 13.6 percent in 2011.

The plan is to invest the new money in a summer orientation program for Chicago Public Schools kids and enforcement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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