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Today's Family Magazine

Tobacco 21 legislation could be coming to your hometown

By Laura Lytle

In May of 2018, Wickliffe City Council adopted an ordinance for Tobacco 21, a national campaign that prohibits the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that tobacco use is the foremost preventable cause of premature death in the United States, and according to the Department of Health and Human Services, tobacco use is responsible for approximately 480,000 deaths per year, and $300 billion in annual health care and lost productivity costs.

As a new health ordinance being adopted across the country, one city at a time, Tobacco 21 presents an opportunity to address an important national health risk.

“Support for Tobacco 21 is a growing trend, and is moving many cities toward healthier living.  There are currently 15 cities in Ohio that have adopted Tobacco 21, and include Kent, Twinsburg, Norton, Wickliffe, Worthington, Akron, Dublin, Powell, Euclid, Columbus, Cleveland, New Albany, Grandview, Bexley, and Upper Arlington”, said Catherine Hewitt, Lake County General Health District (LCGHD) program manager and current Tobacco Free Ohio Alliance chair.

Since Ohio adopted the Smoke-free Workplace Law in 2006, LCGHD, with support from the Ohio Department of Health, has continued work to enhance public safety and health for all ages.  Over the last three years, LCGHD has raised awareness for Tobacco 21, but many communities are still unclear to the impact tobacco has in our communities, especially among youth.  “We would like to thank the city of Wickliffe for adopting Tobacco 21”, added Hewitt.  

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that, every day, more than 3,200 youth under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette, and the LCGHD Youth Health Status Assessment, conducted in 2014, identified that 9 of 10 smokers start before the age of 18.  This assessment also highlighted that of the youth smokers in Lake County, 22% currently smoke on a daily basis, and the average age of initiation is 13 years old.

According to a study by J. R. DiFranza and M. Coleman published in the journal Tobacco Control, 90% of all adults who purchase tobacco products for minors are between the ages of 18 and 20, and increasing the minimum tobacco sale age to 21 could eliminate minors’ ability to buy from fellow students.  Tobacco 21, therefore, may help fill the gap where current age restriction laws have not succeeded.

According to the 2014 Surgeon General Report, the tobacco industry aggressively markets tobacco products to youth and young adults.  Those who begin smoking at a young age are more likely to become addicted, to progress to daily use, to smoke more as they grow into adulthood, and to have trouble quitting.  In March of 2015, the Institute of Medicine report found that increasing the legal age of sale for tobacco will likely prevent or delay tobacco use initiation by adolescents and young adults.  The IOM report also suggested that if all states were to raise the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21, a 12 percent national decrease in cigarette smoking could be achieved.

For questions regarding Tobacco 21 legislation, please contact Catherine Hewitt by phone at (440) 350-2442, or via email at [email protected].