Tobacco21

How the Windy City is Stopping Kids from Lighting Up

By Julie Morita, M.D., Commissioner , Chicago Department of Public Health

Today is World No Tobacco Day, a day dedicated to bringing attention to the devastating health risks associated with tobacco use and to build momentum for passing effective policies to reduce tobacco use across the globe. This year’s theme is “Get ready for plain packaging” – a bold approach from the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to reduce the promotional appeal of cigarette packs and communicate health information with graphic warnings.

How Did Tobacco 21 Pass in Kansas City? With a Unique Coalition.

The movement to raise the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 in Kansas City is a tale of collaboration, casting, and finding the best messengers.  It’s about telling the right story at the right time. 

Tobacco 21, or “T21,” is about raising the age of sale from 18 to 21 years of age and has been around for at least ten years. From a health point of view, making the case is relatively easy.  Since 95% of smokers start by the age of 21, this policy stops a harmful addictive behavior before it even starts.  It may be more legally complicated in your community, but in most places, it can be passed with a simple ordinance. What made our effort in Kansas City different was the makeup and leadership of our Tobacco 21 campaign team, which included hundreds of members of the business community, legislative bodies, public health officials, and local youth.  The synergy of this group helped move Kansas City to pass T21.