Ohio governor calls for increasing age to 21 to buy tobacco, e-cigarettes


Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is pushing to raise the age to buy tobacco in the state.

He joined health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus on Wednesday morning to discuss his 2020-2021 budget proposal, which includes a push to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco and alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. 

He cited information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain, which continues developing until about age 25.

Some states have already banned people from buying vaping devices or any tobacco until the age of 21. Ohio has not, but several local cities have ordinances.

A recent study by the National Youth Tobacco Survey says the number of high school students vaping increased by 78 percent last year alone. In middle school, that number has increased 48 percent, according to health officials. 

Dr. Amy Acton is the director of the Ohio Department of Health and a Youngstown native. She and the governor agree that there’s a problem among the state’s young people, and it needs to be addressed.

“I think what really got me was national stats that show 1 out of 5 kids are using e-cigs and those numbers are going up every month dramatically,” DeWine said. 

The statistics mean that more than 3 million high school students across America have used e-cigarettes in the past month.

The governor wants to join 11 other states which have already raised the age to buy the products. 

“The message should be you need to wait until you’re 21, and we know if that happens, most of these kids will never start smoking at all,” he said. 

Youngstown City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop is a supporter of the change. 

Twenty-two places in Ohio have already adopted rules limiting tobacco or vaping until you turn age 21. Youngstown started the wheels in motion last year.  

Just under 100 businesses in the city sell tobacco. Probably in the fall, City Council will consider raising the age limit.

“We’re still going to move forward. You don’t know what’s going to happen at the state level, so just going to continue as we have been because we think it’s important here for our citizens,” Bishop said.

JUUL Labs, a company that sells e-cigarettes and vaping products, released the following statement in support of raising the buying age:

“We strongly support raising the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21 and have been actively supporting legislation to do this in states across the country and at the federal level. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s 1 billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes, the number-one cause of preventable death in this country, if youth use continues unabated. Tobacco 21 laws fight one of the largest contributors to this problem — sharing by legal-age peers — and they have been shown to dramatically reduce youth-use rates. That is why we will continue to work with lawmakers across the country to enact these effective policies.”

Raising the age for tobacco — either in the city or state — the focus would be on the seller, just like with alcohol. Any underage sales would be enforced against them.

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