LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Beginning Thursday, October 17, the legal age to purchase tobacco products in the state of Ohio will be raised from 18 to 21.
The Ohio Department of Health calls the new law a major victory.
“This is a huge step because we know that 95% of people who end up ultimately addicted to nicotine start before the age of 21,” Dr. Amy Acton said.
Some vendors, however, fear the new regulation may force teenagers to buy the products from unregulated, unsafe sources.
“Kids will always find a way,” Chuck Whitingr said. “They’re really resilient.”
Whitingr works at Ross Beverage in Lakewood and said a large percentage of his customers are teens who may already be addicted to nicotine and tobacco products.
He worries teens who were legally allowed to purchase the products before the legislation was signed into law may seek out unreliable sources to get their fix.
“They’re already 18... 19,” Whitingr said. “They’ve already been using the product for a year. That could have ramifications that are bad.”
Erika Trapl, an expert on tobacco research, acknowledged the lengths some teens may be willing to go to in order to get their hands on tobacco products, but she said the new law focuses more on making tobacco products less appealing and less accessible.
“If I’m a high school kid and I know my 18-year-old friend can get it, then there’s that opportunity,” Trapl said. “If that law suddenly changes and I’m more of an opportunist, my possibility and opportunity has just disappeared.”
Trapl said e-cigarette tobacco products have been designed to attract youth and the new law is a step in the right direction.
“It makes it harder for those kids who might have said yes to get access,” Trapl said. “The kids who want to experiment are going to find ways to experiment.”
Whitingr believes federal regulation of e-cigarette products would be a more efficient solution to the nationwide vaping epidemic, primarily affecting youth.
“I think the FDA should be doing more to regulate things instead of municipalities,” Whitingr said. “That just seems odd. One place is 18. One place is 21.”