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Ohio's Tobacco Buying Age Could Rise To 21 Under DeWine Budget

Lindsay Fox
Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed budget would raise the tobacco buying age from 18 to 21 statewide. But the provision could also result in less state revenue.

Raising the buying age would cut down on the numbers of young people who start smoking, says Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton. It could also help with infant mortality among young mothers, and could stop huge increases in the use of electronic cigarettes.

“From the National Youth Tobacco Survey, there has been a 78 percent increase in use of high school students in the past year, 48 percent increase in middle school students,” Acton says.

She also notes a somewhat surprising poll from the Centers for Disease Control.

“Seven out of 10 smokers feel that the age should be raised to 21,” Acton says.

Several cities have already raised the tobacco buying age to 21, including Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron and Cleveland.

The state estimates it will lose nearly $40 million in revenue by raising the buying age. Acton argues that billions are spent nationally each year on smoking-related illness.

Ohio was given a mixed grade by the American Lung Association in its 2019 “State of Tobacco Control” report, which said Ohio lawmakers need to do more to reduce smoking. Among the organization’s central recommendations were raising the tobacco buying age, funding tobacco prevention programs, and raising the state tobacco tax.