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Health, Science & Environment

Grandview Heights bans sale of flavored tobacco and vape products

A man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette.
Robert F. Bukaty

On Tuesday, Grandview Heights officials approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products and created a tobacco licensing program.

Grandview Heights Councilman Antony Panzera, who sponsored the change, said the law is designed to support Tobacco 21, a federal law that raised the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, by creating better enforcement against underage sales.

He said data shows that about 90% of adult tobacco users were addicted as youth, meaning before the age of 21.

“So, we looked at this as an opportunity to help curb and mitigate tobacco use in the future and of course to keep it essentially out of the hands of our children,” Panzera said.

The ban will begin Jan. 1, 2024, the same day a similar ban begins in Columbus. Flavored tobacco products under Grandview Heights' law include any tobacco products that have a taste or smell other than tobacco, including fruit, chocolate, herb, spice or alcoholic beverage.

Franklin County Public Health will administer a tobacco retail license program. Similar programs are in place in Whitehall, Hilliard and Reynoldsburg, according to a summary of the Grandview Heights law.

A license will not be granted to retailers within 1,000 feet of a school or “youth-oriented facility,” or within 1,000 feet of another licensed tobacco retailer. Panzera said two existing retailers who are within 1,000 feet of a school will be grandfathered in and can stay in their locations.

The total number of licenses will be limited to the current number of tobacco retailers, which is four. The annual cost of a license will be at least $500.

Per the new rule, retailers must also display signs saying it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco near cash registers.

The legislation says that after decades of decline in smoking, there has been a “dramatic rise” in the use of e-cigarettes, especially by young people, “and an increase in new formats of tobacco products intended to entice and addict a new generation of users to tobacco and nicotine products, with e-cigarette flavors with names like cotton candy, bubble gum, banana smash and mango ice.”

It also includes a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that in 2022, 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes, with more than eight in 10 using flavored tobacco.

Grandview Heights, which has an area of about 1.3 square miles and a population of around 8,500, was an early adopter of a policy to stop retailers from selling tobacco to people under the age of 21 and before that was one of the first Ohio communities to lead an initiative to ban indoor smoking in public places, according to the legislation.

Panzera said that Grandview Heights took “a really strong step” to be a leader in the smoke-free environment around 20 years ago and has been involved ever since.

“And now this is kind of a next step to bring that enforcement and that compliance effort down to a local level,” Panzera said.

Gov. Mike DeWine has twice vetoed state provisions to prohibit local regulation of tobacco products. In his most recent veto to a measure included in the state budget, DeWine cited the CDC’s estimate that around 480,000 Americans die from cigarette smoke each year.

“In the absence of an effective and comprehensive statewide flavored tobacco ban (including menthol), which is this administration’s preferred policy approach, local government bans are essential because they reduce access to flavored tobacco and nicotine alternative products and interrupt the cycle of addiction,” the veto states.

Health, Science & Environment TobaccoGrandview HeightsVapingtobacco ban
Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.