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Governor, health officials want tobacco-purchasing age to be raised to 21

• Apr 22, 2019 at 9:00 PM

COLUMBUS — State officials are warning parents that vaping is not a safer alternative to smoking for their teens.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine joined Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss in calling for the age to purchase tobacco and vaping products in Ohio be raised from 18 to 21.

“E-cigarette marketers are convincing some people that their product is a safer alternative than smoking, and that’s simply not the case,” DeWine said. “With sleek, fun packaging and flavors like ‘candy crush’ and ‘watermelon wave,’ these products are clearly being marketed to kids. We should work to ensure kids don’t start using e-cigarettes in the first place. It is our duty to warn parents of the risks of e-cigarettes and help families realize the long-term consequences of vaping may be no safer than smoking.”

“We are seeing an explosive increase in vaping among our youth, and it’s not safe for young people,” Acton said. “Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development. E-cigarette aerosol also can contain other harmful and potentially harmful substances including cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals like lead and chemical flavorings linked to serious lung disease.”

“The impact of nicotine on a developing brain, causes young people to become addicted much more swiftly than an adult,” Criss said. “Increasing the minimum age to purchase cigarettes and e-cigarettes will increase the age that people have their first cigarette and reduce the likelihood they will become long-term smokers.”

Each day, 350 kids in the United States under the age of 18 become regular, daily smokers, while the rate of e-cigarette use among high school age use is increasing. From 2017 to 2018, the rate increased from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent, an increase of 78 percent. This means that more than 3 million U.S. high school students have used e-cigarettes in the past month.

About 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turn 21, and about 80 percent first tried it before age 18. While less than half (47 percent) of adult smokers become regular, daily smokers before age 18, four out of five become regular, daily smokers before they turn 21. This means the 18 to 21 age range is a time when many people who have smoked transition to regular smoking.

The governor’s 2020-2021 budget proposal proposes increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco and alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. This proposal has the support of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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