If you haven’t heard, Tobacco 21 was a success: Ohio raised the age of sale and purchase of tobacco products to age 21. What does this mean? Those under 21 cannot legally buy cigarettes, cigars, vape pens or any other tobacco products. Store owners will have to check IDs even more carefully and, we hope, post new signage announcing the legal age.
The law takes effect in 90 days and was part of the state budget bill, which Gov. Mike DeWine signed last week. The passage of this comes at a good time because youth vaping rates are on the rise. Between 2017 and 2018 there was a 78% increase in high school students using vaping devices; among middle schoolers the increase was 48%. National studies show 20% of 12th graders vape. Vaping devices and liquids contain nicotine, an addictive chemical. The devices can also be used to vape other substances, including marijuana. Vaping also increases the likelihood that youth will turn to cigarettes – in fact, youth who vape are four times more likely to end up smoking.
Recent youth surveys showyouth smoking rates are among the lowest they have ever been. A 2018 survey of Wayne County youth found that 96% of those surveyed in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 don’t smoke. Furthermore, youth say tobacco is among the worst/riskiest substance to use – prescription drugs was the other substance they said was dangerous to use.
But the new kid on the block – vaping – has parents, communities and schools concerned about the trend.
“We really have a crisis not just in Ohio but a crisis across the country,” DeWine told reporters last week. “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.”
Ohio is serious about this move – even if it costs money: Ohio will lose between $17 and $23 million in taxes because of the age increase. E-cigarette devices and juices will, however, be taxed, which could offset some of that loss.
Ohio is the 17th state to pass Tobacco 21; prior to the passage, over 20 municipalities in Ohio had already passed a Tobacco 21 law.
All this is good news for prevention. Increasing the legal age will make it more difficult for youth to purchase all tobacco products. It’s not foolproof, but it’s another way to reduce access to a nicotine, which is addictive – one of the hardest substances to kick. It takes about 10 times for people to kick the habit. While E-cigarettes began as a way for adult smokers to quit smoking by tapering off the amount of nicotine they ingested, vaping has become an epidemic among youth. It’s still unclear whether or not e-cigarettes are actually safer than smoking tobacco and research hasn’t determined harms associated with using e-cigarettes. Regardless, using vaping products – and any tobacco product for that matter – for those under age 21 is now illegal in Ohio.