BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio is becoming the 18th state where people must be 21 and older to purchase tobacco.
The Fire Fox Cafe is already operating under those rules and has seen a shift in its customer base.
The business gets numerous calls every week from groups wanting to come in, many of which are 19 or 20.
Mariella Marino said many young adults who came just for the atmosphere can no longer get in.
“Kids aren’t happy about this. They’re going to hear more from them than from us,” Marino said.
Ohio smoking rates are above the national average for both high school age and adults. Statistics show that 95% of adult smokers start before the age of 21, and the state law was changed to keep youngsters away from tobacco.
“We are interested because 30% of Ohio cancer deaths are directly attributable to people using tobacco,” said Jeff Stephens.
The state could lose $40 million in taxes over the next two years from raising the smoking age.
Fire Fox Cafe has adapted. It opened a bar in its establishment and has added new menu items. On Tuesdays, everything except alcohol was half-off with a college ID.
“Now, we’re only seeing those upperclassmen or the grad students because those are the ones that are 21, so we lost out on that a lot,” Marino said.
Fire Fox Cafe sells cigars, but not cigarettes and very few vaping products. It uses disc jockeys and belly dancers to attract customers.
They started looking at a new clientele because of the state law change.
“So we have a really nice, established, older crowd as well, so I’m hopeful that they’ll maintain it for us and that maybe we’ll get in a new crowd as well that can see it as being a little more mature,” Marino said.