Tobacco 21

Tobacco 21 (T21), or raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products from 18 to 21, is a growing movement that more than 260 municipalities including Evanston, Maywood, Oak Park, and Berwyn, have joined. In addition, based on a recent survey, nearly 7 out of 10 residents in suburban Cook County support a proposed T21 policy.

The teen age years are a critical time for tobacco prevention with 95% of smokers starting before the age of 21.2 The parts of the brain most responsible for decision making, impulse control, sensation seeking, and susceptibility to peer pressure continue to develop through young adulthood, making adolescent brains vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction.4


  • T21 reduces teen access to tobacco products. Raising the age makes it less likely that those who can legally purchase tobacco are within teenagers’ social circles and also keeps tobacco out of schools.
  • T21 lowers smoking rates. The Institute of Medicine projects that Tobacco 21 policies could reduce overall smoking by 12% by the time today’s teenagers become adults. The biggest declines in tobacco use would be seen among 15-17 year olds (25%) and 18-20 year olds (15%).5
  • T21 improves overall health. In addition to reducing the number of adolescents and young adults with adverse physiological effects (e.g., increased inflammation and impaired immune functioning) caused by smoking, raising the minimum legal age will also lessen the population’s exposure to secondhand smoke and its associated health effects.66

Interested in Tobacco 21 policies?

Download our factsheet

Benefits of Tobacco 21

Share your support

Spread awareness about T21. Share the social media posts below and use #Tobacco21 to join the conversation here in suburban Cook County!


Are you interested in a T21 policy for your community? The Cook County Department of Public Health and its Healthy HotSpot partners for tobacco-free living can offer support and technical assistance to help you advance a T21 policy where you live. Check out our Tobacco 21 factsheet and contact us at for more information.

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