Ohio moves step closer to raising smoking age to 21

Some teens would be ‘grandfathered’ to purchase tobacco

Ohioans who turn 18 by Oct. 1 would still be allowed to purchase tobacco and vaping products even though the state will move the legal purchase age to 21, according to the latest version of the state budget bill.

State senators favor “grandfathering” current teens and young adults from the new 21-year-old purchase age.

The Ohio Senate voted 33-0 today on the two-year state operating budget bill. Bumping the tobacco purchase age to 21 is supported by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio House. Senators on Wednesday night added the grandfathering language.

Jeff Stephens of the American Cancer Society said “It just delays any public health impact that the policy would have. It will make enforcement difficult and quite frankly it’ll make a mess for the retailers to try to enforce. Thirdly, this is something that obviously the industry supports and it’s a way for them to delay implementation of the policy.”

Also in the proposed budget is a new tax for vaping products. Initially, senators added language to tax vaping products at 17 percent of wholesale, which is the same levied on other tobacco products such as chew and snuff. But this week, the tax proposal shifted to be a penny per milliliter of nicotine.

Stephens said the tobacco industry prefers the tax-by-volume model over a percentage of wholesale tax. One-cent per milliliter would be nominal — the equivalent of putting a 7-cent tax per pack of cigarettes — and would not raise as much money as the state stands to lose when the tobacco purchase age goes to 21, he said.

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