Age is 21 to buy nicotine products starting today

Ohio’s new “Tobacco 21” law takes effect today, raising the age from 18 to 21 to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products as well as alternative nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and vaping materials.

The law also makes it illegal to give such products to other people younger than 21.

Beth Schweitzer, commissioner of the Seneca County General Health District, said she is very much in favor of the change.

As a member of a group of health commissioners in Ohio that meets monthly to review pending and potential health-related legislation, she said the entire group agreed.

“We were very much in favor of it,” she said. “We favor anything that helps reduce smoking and smoking-related diseases.”

Schweitzer said statistics show that the longer young people put off using nicotine products, the less likely they are to become addicted. She said moving past the teenage and young adult years without smoking is important for a person’s health.

“Smoking rates have gone down in Seneca County,” she said. “That’s a good thing, but of course, we are seeing the incidence of vaping increasing in teenagers.

“People are using that to replace the nicotine in tobacco products, but it isn’t any healthier,” she said.

Schweitzer said she hopes grant money will become available in Seneca County to continue helping people to stop smoking and to encourage teenagers to not start.

“Research indicates that approximately 95% of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21,” said Gov. Mike DeWine in a news release. “Increasing the age to 21 will reduce the chances of our young people starting to smoke and becoming regular smokers.”

“Evidence suggests that nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has long-term impacts on brain development, and tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton in the release. “Raising the sales age for tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 means that those who can legally obtain these products are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.”

According to a 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine, the release said raising the tobacco sales age from 18 to 21 likely will prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults, particularly among youth 15 to 17 years old.

The release listed the types of tobacco and alternative nicotine products covered by the new law as cigarettes; electronic smoking devices such as vapes, e-cigarettes, and tanks; cigars; pipe tobacco; chewing tobacco; snuff; snus; dissolvable nicotine products; filters, rolling papers, pipes, blunts, or hemp wraps; liquids used in electronic smoking devices whether or not they contain nicotine; and vapor products – any component, part, or additive that is intended for use in an electronic smoking device, a mechanical heating element, battery, or electronic circuit and is used to deliver the product. Tobacco products and alternative nicotine products do not include products such as nicotine replacement therapy for use when quitting tobacco and other nicotine products.

The law requires retailers to post a sign indicating it is illegal to sell tobacco and alternative nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21.

The release said a clerk who sells tobacco and alternative nicotine products to a person under 21 and the owner of the retail establishment may face criminal penalties that increase after the first violation under Ohio’s Tobacco 21 law. For a first offense, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree, a clerk is subject to no more than 30 days in jail and a fine up to $250, and the retail establishment is subject to a fine of $2,000.

For more information, visit OhioTobacco21.gov or call (855) OHIO-T21.

In addition, ODH’s Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at (800) QUIT-NOW offers free resources, including non-judgmental quit coaches for quitting tobacco and vaping products.