COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the stroke of Gov. Mike DeWine's pen, Ohio became the latest state to increase the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products.
Ohio's Tobacco 21 measures was part of the state's budget that DeWine signed on July 18. The new law applies to all tobacco products — from cigarettes and cigars to rolling papers, liquids and other accessories involved with smoking or vaping, according to Cleveland.com.
The governor vetoed a provision that would have phased the higher age in for anyone who turns 18 years old before Oct. 1. He said that grandfathering in the higher smoking age would have been difficult to enforce, and posed complications for retailers, the news outlet reported.
"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 new law, Ohio becomes the 18th state, plus Washington, D.C., to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. It follows close on the heels of similar measure in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed that state's measure into law on July 16, as Convenience Store News previously reported.
The growing list of Tobacco 21 states comes as federal legislation swirls around Capitol Hill. A proposal to increase the federal legal buying age from 18 to 21 has the support of several leading companies in the tobacco and vapor industries, including Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc. and San Francisco-based Juul Labs Inc.
With New York and Ohio now joining the club, according to Altria, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in states that have raised the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21.
"Now is the time to move to 21, which is by far the best way to stop the rise in underage e-vapor use and is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans," said Howard Willard, Altria chairman and CEO. "Taking this step will reduce underage access to these products. It will also pave the way for e-vapor products to realize their enormous harm reduction potential for millions of adult smokers 21 and older."
As the company noted, raising the legal minimum age the federal level is popular among American voters According to public opinion research commissioned by Altria Client Services in December:
- Nearly three-quarters of voters support the increase, with 48 percent strongly in support.
- A strong majority of self-identified Democrats (81 percent), Republicans (68 percent), and Independents (71 percent) support raising the minimum purchase age to 21.
- Support is consistently high throughout the country.
- A majority of both current cigarette consumers (58 percent) and e-vapor consumers (56 percent) support raising the legal age of purchase for tobacco products to 21 years old.