Ohio governor vetoes flavored tobacco bill, calls for statewide ban

Under a recently passed law, Ohio cities would not have been allowed to outlaw the sale of flavored vapes and menthol cigarettes. Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed the bill Thursday, and at the same time, he called for a statewide ban on flavored tobacco.

“We have an epidemic in Ohio. The epidemic is we’re seeing more and more of our young people start to vape at a younger and younger age,” DeWine said during a Thursday media briefing. “This has been going on long enough now that we know that many of them transition over to tobacco, and we know the long-term consequences of that.”

House Bill 513, which passed the General Assembly on Dec. 15, was designed to lessen restrictions on wholesale tobacco, Ohio’s fourth-largest source of tax revenue. The bill specifically says local governments cannot regulate tobacco products or alternative nicotine products, like e-cigarettes.

House Bill 513 would make it illegal for any local jurisdiction to regulate smoking, vaping or other e-cigarette usage and sales.

“When a local community wants to make the decision to ban these flavors to protect their children, we should applaud those decisions,” said DeWine of the bill he called “not in the public interest.”

Youth smoking rates have decreased dramatically, and are now in the single digits, but health officials fear the rise in vaping is reversing that trend.

“The reality is that, sadly, about a third of our high school students report either using e-cigarettes or vaping, just in the course of the last 30 days,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health director.

DeWine said he understands that merchants want to have uniform laws across the state, but said that the fruit and candy flavors are designed to make the tobacco products more enticing to young people.

He said an outright ban on flavored tobacco products would create that uniformity.

“If we had that statewide ban, Ohio would be moving forward, we will save a lot of lives, we will save a lot of children from starting down a pathway that in 20 years, 25 years, 30 years may end up costing them their lives,” DeWine said.

Local co-sponsors of the bill included Republican Reps. Sara Carruthers of Hamilton and Scott Lipps of Franklin, plus Republican Sen. George Lang of West Chester Twp.

Read DeWine’s veto message below:

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