Statement from the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians

Javette C. Orgain, MD, MPH, FAAFP

Past President
Speaker, American Academy of Family Physicians
March 1, 2016

Staff Contact:  Ginnie Flynn, Vice President of Communications 630-427-8004 

I’m Dr. Javette Orgain, a family physician, born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and I am so proud to stand here in support of this issue on behalf of the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians.

Family physicians in Chicago and across Illinois applaud the proposal to raise the purchase age to 21 to nicotine addiction by stopping tobacco use, especially among young people. We thank Mayor Emanuel and the three Alderman for sponsoring this important legislation.

I have cared for many teenagers and young adults during my career with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Mile Square Health Center. We, in the health care community, know that teens are still developing both physically and emotionally. Their brains are developing until the early 20's, so good judgment is still evolving. This is a crucial period where important choices are made and habits are formed. Some of them are already parents, with children of their own to protect from second hand smoke!

This ordinance will have a profound positive effect among African Americans in Chicago, who have higher rates of lung cancer and heart disease. African Americans are bearing the brunt of Big Tobacco’s relentless marketing, and our community must take a stand for the health of our young people.

National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages between 18 and 21 are also a time when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use.

Preventing tobacco use before it starts means we can reduce the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, and also lower the risk of birth defects caused by tobacco use in pregnancy. Reducing these illnesses contributes to a future healthier workforce for our city and lessens the drain on our health care system.

If we raise the age to 21, and cut the supply to today’s young smokers, we must also be ready to provide them immediate help: in our practices, through the Tobacco Quitline and in community-based services. My family medicine and pediatric colleagues are ready to help them!

Illinois college campuses are already smoke free – so let’s send our students to college with less ability to circumvent the rules by purchasing tobacco products that only cause them harm and cannot be used on campus.

I have spent my entire life and career in these same neighborhoods. I’m disappointed when business owners and Aldermen say that selling tobacco is good business and therefore good for the ward. I say no – we should not take pride in building an economy including products that are addictive and harmful.

Illinois, and especially Chicago, has made tremendous progress cutting youth smoking rates. As a national leader with the American Academy of Family Physicians, I frequently brag about the progress of my Sweet Home Chicago and our state.

The tobacco industry has not given up on hooking our kids to be their future customers. We cannot give up the fight to keep tobacco away from our young people.

Let us help today’s youth make the transition to tobacco-free adults and enjoy a healthier future. We are ready to help all of our patients quit tobacco for good! Family physicians support tobacco 21 and we ask all of our Aldermen to vote yes on March 16.

It bears repeating that Kansas City, Cleveland, Boston, New York City and the entire state of Hawaii have already passed tobacco 21 laws. Others are considering legislation. Meanwhile the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps are on record supporting Tobacco 21, as they want their personnel to stay healthy. There is nothing patriotic about tobacco use or selling these products to 18-20 year olds.

Thank you for your support!