AKRON, Ohio– A new Ohio law called Tobacco 21 in effect later this month will make it illegal to purchase tobacco or vaping related products under the age of 21, in order to reduce youth adoption rates of middle and high school children.
“This is hurting many people,” said Cory Kendrick, the policy and legislative affairs manager at Summit County Public Health. “We have a serious vaping epidemic with our kids.”
Kendrick said products intended for adult use are getting into the hands of children at what he describes as an alarming rate. He said a survey of middle and high school students last year found nearly 60 percent of suburban children have tried to vape by 12th grade in Summit County schools.
“We have a large cohort of kids who are middle school to high school that we know are vaping,” Kendrick said. “Our numbers are through the roof. So this is really to target the underage youth from ever starting.”
Some retailers said the law will hurt business and will not encourage young people to stop vaping. They said they believe more customers will turn to online stores instead of supporting small businesses.
“At the age of 18, you should be able to make the decision of if you’re going to be able to smoke a cigarette,” said Brian Lamtman, co-owner of Headz Up.
Lamtman said he serves customers from 18 years of age to senior citizens. While the young population is not his main customer base, any drop in sales hurts business.
“Those kids are going to find somewhere else to get the stuff or they’re going to you know ask their friend who is 21 to come in and buy it and then you’re just involved in something illegal at that point, rather than just letting an adult make their own decisions,” Lamtman said.
Summit County health officials said the the total amount of impact to legal sales amounts to less than a $4 loss in revenue per tobacco retailer under the Tobacco 21 law.
Kendrick said failure to comply with the new law can result in penalties such as a fine up to $1,000.