Ohio Raises Smoking Age To 21

Person smoking cigarette
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Ohio has increased the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the change into law Thursday under a provision in the new state budget.

Some medical officials are applauding the legal smoking age change, said University Hospitals' Dr. Lolita McDavid.

Research shows most tobacco users start before age 18 and getting people to wait may stop them from ever using, said McDavid, who is the medical director of child advocacy and protection at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

Many adults die prematurely because they started smoking when they were a teenager, she said.

 “You don’t need to die from throat cancer or lung cancer or a heart attack at 50 because you started smoking at 17 or 18,” McDavid said.

There are nearly 500,000 premature deaths a year in the U.S. from the effects of smoking, she said.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, also applies to rolling papers, filters, blunt wrappers, liquids and other accessories involved with smoking or vaping.

“People are going to say ‘Oh but you can get somebody else to go in and buy the cigarettes for you.’ Yeah, you’ve always been able to do that. But, hopefully not being able to go in and purchase it themselves will make them delay smoking,” said McDavid.

Ohio joins several other states in raising the age limit for purchasing tobacco products, including California, Connecticut, Illinois and New York, according the website of the Tobacco 21 foundation. 

“We know the benefits because the first community to raise the age to 21 was Needham, Massachusetts in 2005, and they’ve done studies that have shown that cigarette smoking among youth was cut almost in half,” McDavid said.

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