In a move to improve health quality in the state, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has included a provision in his proposed 2020-2021 Executive Budget that would increase the age for purchasing cigarettes from 18 to 21. The intent is to further discourage the use of cigarettes overall throughout the Buckeye State.
Governor DeWine’s proposed budget was officially released on March 15. Outlined in the Executive Budget:
The fiscal years 2020-2021 Executive Budget proposes an important change to the cigarette and OTP taxes. The Budget would change Ohio law by increasing the minimum legal age – from age 18 to age 21 – for purchasing cigarettes, other tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, and cigarette papers. Although the proposed age increase does not constitute a change in how these products are taxed, it would reduce the quantity of purchased items because of the age change and therefore result in a modest decline in cigarette and OTP tax revenue.
By the governor’s own assessment, the move would cut cigarette revenues by more than $20 million over the two year budget period. Despite this, a 2017 poll found that 58 percent of Ohioans favor this change. The measure has significant precedent throughout the country.
A report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids revealed that, as of April 2, 2019, Arkansas, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, Utah, and Virginia have all moved the age to buy cigarettes to 21.
In addition, more than 450 localities have done the same. Currently in Ohio, 21 localities have made the shift, and those are: Akron, Bexley, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Columbus, Dublin, Euclid, Grandview Heights, Green, Kent, Lakewood, Mogadore, New Albany, Norton, Powell, Richfield, Twinsburg, Upper Arlington, Wickliffe, and Worthington.
While smoking has been on the decline in recent years, the provision would also affect a new product whose demand is increasing exponentially. The ban specifically includes “alternative nicotine products,” such as vape pens, e-cigarettes, and other vaping products.
According to the National Institute of Health, teenagers and young American are using vape products in record numbers. Almost 20 percent of high school seniors are currently vaping. While vape users insist their product is a safe and healthy alternative to smoking, there is not a scientific consensus on its safety. The hope is that the hike will not only cut back smoking in the Buckeye State but also curb the use of vape pens.
An early 2019 report by the American Lung Association gave Ohio low marks for lung health. Specifically, it graded Ohio as follows:
Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
Strength of Smoke free Workplace Laws – Grade A
Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade C
Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
This gives Ohio a Lung Health GPA of 1.2. Should this measure be enacted, the Ohio GPA would jump to a 2.0. Still less than ideal, at least it would be a passing grade for the Buckeye State.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].