Ohio law raising tobacco use age to 21 begins Thursday

COLUMBUS – A new tobacco law goes into affect Thursday in Ohio.

Called Tobacco 21, it raises the age from 18 to 21 to purchase cigarettes, other tobacco products and alternative nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and vaping products. The law makes it illegal to give such products to others under age 21.

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

Evidence suggests nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has long-term impacts on brain development, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., she said.

“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,” Acton said.

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

The new law includes the prohibition on 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 with or without nicotine and vapor products — any component, part or additive 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 that it is illegal to sell tobacco and alternative nicotine products to anyone under 21.

A clerk who sells tobacco and alternative nicotine products to a person under 21 and the owner of the establishment may face criminal penalties that increase after the first violation under the Tobacco 21 law.

For a first offense, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree, a clerk faces up to 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 about Ohio’s Tobacco 21 law, go to OhioTobacco21.gov or call the toll-free hotline at 1-855-OHIO-T21. ODH’s Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW offers free resources, including non-judgmental quit coaches for quitting tobacco and vaping products, officials said.