“Most kids start smoking, 95 percent before the age of 21, which is a huge number,” said Erin Bishop.
A proposed ordinance by the Youngstown City Health District is suggesting the age requirement to purchase tobacco in the city be raised from 18 to 21.
“Akron, they passed it back in April of 2018, Columbus, Cincinnati,” Bishop said.
Bishop is the health commissioner for Youngstown. Wednesday the Youngstown Health District took its first step toward passing the citywide ordinance.
“This is more information and to see how much push back we would have,” Bishop said.
She says more and more teenagers in the area are picking up new smoking habits.
Bishop says vaping is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“The 11th graders, they asked a question, ‘do you think vaping is harmful,’ and 56 percent of the kids said that vaping wasn’t harmful. So, that’s one thing that we’re kind of looking on now because I see where it’s really high in a lot of middle school and high school,” Bishop said.
If the ordinance does pass, no one under 21 will be able to buy these products, and local stores will begin to see the effects.
“We’re gonna lose out for sure, cause we have a lot of people that are 18 to 21 that buy, so we’re gonna definitely lose out on business from that,” said Joe Ahmad, an employee at Check N Go in Youngstown.
The Centers for Disease Control found 10.8 percent of high school aged teenagers in Ohio reported smoking cigarettes in 2015.
“The state of Ohio It’s like 13 is the average age where they’re starting to smoke. But when we did our 11th graders, the average was 15, when they started smoking, so that’s in Mahoning County,” Bishop said.
83 stores in Youngstown sell tobacco products. Ahmad says he doesn’t think a new citywide ordinance will help.
“They’re gonna find a way to get it some way. I don’t think it’s gonna stop the younger people from smoking, but it will take away from businesses. But I don’t think it’s gonna stop the kids from getting ahold of something, they’ll just find someone older to buy it for them,” he said.
A 2014 Mahoning County Health Assessment showed about 1 in 4 adults smoke. Bishop says smoking is directly linked to three of the most common health issues in this area.
“Our number one killer around here is heart disease, we’re looking at stroke, cancer and they all have a direct link to smoking tobacco,” she said.
Twenty cities in Ohio, including Cleveland, Akron and Columbus already prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. Bishop says by the summer, we should know if Youngstown will be on that list.