Raising the age to buy tobacco in Peoria could be coming sooner than some may realize.
A proposal to raise the city's minimum age for smoking was put forth Monday.
The river city's liquor commission heard a presentation by a coalition comprised of members of the American Heart Association, a Richwoods High School student, parents and health officials.
The proposal, referred to as the 'T-21 Initiative' would essentially "raise the legal sale age for all tobacco products to 21 years of age as opposed to the current 18." explained Carolyn Cerf, Director of Gov't Relations for the American Heart Assn.
Cerf along with tobacco critics say cigarettes, cigars and related tobacco products are everywhere, and making their way into younger and younger hands.
"The youngest I've personally seen somebody smoking would have to be my age, 15." said Malachi Hall, a student at Richwoods High School. Hall created an anti smoking campaign recently, in an effort to encourage his peers not to give into pressure or temptations that could lead to the dangerous habit.
During the presentation, the coalition asked the commission to fast track T-21 by drafting an ordinance to go before Peoria City Council.
"If we can catch it early on before people get started, being those teenagers, then that's the best way to go. Why not? What reason do we have not to do this?" questioned Camille Coats, a member of the liquor commission.
One Unity Point Health employee highlighted the severity of the issue; explaining that the city cannot afford to waste time, even citing statistics on how rapidly the chemicals in tobacco products are affecting people's lives.
Shalonda Knox, a coalition member, parent and 'Lung Cancer Nurse Navigator' revealed "the number of people who are being diagnosed has doubled in the last year." Knox, referring to lung cancer, explained that she's witnessed first hand the how patients coping with tobacco related diseases suffer.
"It's not just the person fighting the diagnosis. It's the whole family that's impacted." Knox stated.
All five commissioners supported the idea, leaving the group all smiles and hopeful for the future.
Peoria Councilman Eric Turner was in attendance and added to the news, relaying a message from Mayor Ardis of additional support and encouraging a draft of the ordinance be created immediately.
If passed, all tobacco retailers would incur the same penalty for selling products to anyone under 21, as they would now if they were under 18.
The coalition said T-21 would set a major precedent in the area.
The ordinance will likely go before Peoria's city council during their next meeting.