Ohio Raises Smoking Age to 21

by | July 19, 2019 AT 7:36 AM

By Andrew J. Tobias

Ohioans must wait until age 21 to buy legally cigarettes, cigars, vape pens and other tobacco products, under a provision in the state budget bill signed Thursday morning by Gov. Mike DeWine.

The new law also applies to rolling papers, filters, blunt wrappers, liquids and other accessories involved with smoking or vaping. The higher age takes effect immediately -- DeWine on Thursday vetoed a provision that would have phased it in for anyone who turns 18 years old before Oct. 1.

DeWine told reporters Thursday that grandfathering in the higher smoking age would have been difficult to enforce, and posed complications for retailers.

"And I also felt, frankly, that we should not be giving up on a bunch of kids and saying to these kids, it's ok for them to become addicted to nicotine," DeWine said.

With the change, Ohio becomes the latest state to adapt Tobacco 21 language, joining Illinois, Virginia and Texas.

Officials estimate the change will result in a state tax loss of around $20 million a year.

The DeWine administration has called the tobacco age increase a public-health proposal. They're particularly concerned about Juul and other e-cigarettes, saying they've seen a precipitous rise in teen use in the past year. However, Ohio anti-tobacco advocates, ironically, have opposed the change despite supporting the basic concept, saying it's too tough on teens and not tough enough on retailers. Juul, the company that makes the popular vape devices with the same name, has backed Tobacco 21 proposals, partially as a strategy to avert a crackdown from lawmakers.

The state budget also creates a new tax on vaping products assessed at 10 cents per milliliter.

(c)2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland