Ohio governor proposes raising age to buy tobacco

Posted at 10:34 AM, Jul 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-20 10:34:10-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio is raising the minimum age to buy tobacco and related products from 18 to 21.

Gov. Mike DeWine said tobacco use by young people is a crisis in Ohio and the nation when he signed the law Thursday. Ohio will join 17 other states that have set the age limit for purchasing tobacco products at 21. The new law takes effect in October.

"We have known for a long, long time that if a young person can get to be 21 without smoking, the odds are pretty heavy that they aren't ever going to smoke," DeWine said.

Four out of five adult smokers tried their first cigarette before age 18, according to the American Lung Association. Statistics show that more than one in five adults in Ohio smoke, giving the state one of the highest rates in the nation.

The state's new law also applies to rolling papers, filters and other smoking and vaping accessories.

Anti-smoking groups are especially concerned about electronic cigarettes.

"Epidemic use of e-cigarettes by our youth is frightening," said Jeff Stephens, director of Ohio government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Between 2017 and 2018, 1.5 million more students used electronic cigarettes nationwide, a 78 percent increase among high school students and 48 percent increase among middle school students, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Ohio will collect about $20 million a year in taxes paid on tobacco products, although the amount will be partially offset by a tax on e-cigarette sales.

The state spends about $12.5 million annually on smoking cessation and prevention. That's compared with $35 million a decade ago.