Here we go again. Just when you think Naperville city officials have an opportunity to make a huge statement and take an unprecedented stand on an issue, they shrink down and blend into the council chambers woodwork. This time it’s the issue of raising the legal age for tobacco usage. City officials have been flexing their muscles and touting their perceived image of being a leader among communities. An image, city officials mistakenly believe, other communities could emulate, and fall in line behind Naperville.
The Naperville city council will be presented with two options from the Naperville Liquor Commission, regarding increasing the legal age for the sale, possession, and consumption of tobacco products in Naperville from the current age of 18 to 21.
One option would be to prohibit the sale, possession and consumption of tobacco products for anyone under the age of 21, and the second option would focus only on prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
Naperville would not be the first Illinois city to pass an ordinance setting the new age limit; Chicago’s law became effective July 1 of this year. So that in itself makes Naperville a follower rather than a leader. If Naperville city officials truly want to be a leader, they could set a precedent, take a tall stand, and pass an ordinance making the sale, possession, and consumption of all tobacco products illegal, at any age, within the city limits. Or raise the age to 75 and require that both parents be present at the time of purchase.
If the idea of this watered-down age of 21 ordinance is to help people make wise decisions about their health, and the health of those around them, then why not go all-out and protect everyone’s health. If you say that people from the age of 18 to 21 are not smart enough to make good decisions, then I say there are more people between the age of 21 and Methuselah just as unenlightened. Shouldn’t those folks be protected from themselves just as well. And isn’t that what government proclaims; to know better than us, what’s best for us.
The bottom line is that Naperville city officials are willing to part with some lost tobacco tax, because they can easily make that up in fines generated from the ordinance. Ask city officials if they are willing to lose all tobacco taxes, and they will tell you they are late for lunch as they scamper out the door.
If the Naperville city council really wants to make a difference in protecting our health, they have a golden opportunity to do it and make nationwide news.