As Tobacco Use Rises, Cleveland Debates New Battle Plan
Despite national progress in the fight against tobacco use, the city of Cleveland is steadily losing that war: Smoking rates have increased to 36 percent among adults, up from 31 percent in 2005.
Speaking at a council committee hearing Monday, Dr. Scott Frank, a public health researcher at Case Western Reserve University's medical school, displayed maps showing how the use of not only cigarettes but also little cigars, e-cigarettes, and hookahs are on the rise among the city's youth.
"We've been on a roller coaster of trying to find ways to make tobacco less attractive and less accessible," Frank says.
Cleveland City Council members are debating three proposals:
- One proposal would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.
- Another would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, except in retail tobacco stores.
- And, finally, the city proposes to follow in the footsteps of local hospital systems like the Cleveland Clinic and stop hiring smokers by 2017.
If passed, Frank says Cleveland would become a regional leader.
"We are advocating for these changes in municipalities throughout Cuyahoga County, not just Cleveland. If Cleveland leads that way, I suspect many other municipalities will follow suit," Frank says. "And what history tells us is that tobacco legislation on the state level, follows what occurs on the municipal level."
During the meeting, council members raised questions about enforcement and concerns that minority populations would be unfairly affected by the proposed laws.
Joe Cimperman, chair of the health and human services committee, says a working committee will be formed to explore the hiring policy. He plans to have a vote on all of the proposals by early December.
Correction Nov. 17, 2015, 8:30 a.m.: The text and audio has been changed to include the correct name of Case Western Reserve University's expert. His name is Dr. Scott Frank.