Six in 10 Ohioans favor raising minimum age to buy tobacco

Half support increasing tax on cigarettes – 

By Patricia Beech – 

Raising the minimum age to purchase cigarettes to 21 would save lives by preventing adolescents from ever taking up smoking, according to a report from the Ohio State University College of Public Health.
The minimum age to buy tobacco products in Ohio is 18. The report found that nearly all adult smokers began smoking by the age of 18, while almost no one takes up the habit after age 21. However, many young people who buy cigarettes legally share them with their much younger peers.
Among those who begin smoking as teenagers, 80 percent continue to smoke into adulthood because of nicotine addiction, and up to one-half of adult smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.
Recently released data show Ohioans support raising both the cost and legal age to purchase tobacco products.
According to the 2017 Ohio Health Issues Poll (OHIP), nearly six in ten Ohio adults, or 58 percent, report that they favor legislation to raise the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 years.
That’s a slight raise since 2016 when 53 percent of adults favored such a law.
Support for increasing the age varied by smoking status. While only 50 percent of current smokers favored the policy, six in ten adults who never smoked and 61 percent who quit smoking supported raising the minimum legal age.
Locally, the 2017 Adams County Community Health Assessment (ACCHA) report found that cigarette smoking by Adams County youth significantly outpaces the rate observed nationally. 19.7% of seventh graders and 41.5% of 10th graders in Adams County have tried smoking, this compared to 29.1% of 10th graders nationally.
7.8% of Adams County seventh graders have smoked within the past 30 days, while 17.3% of 10th graders are current smokers. This compares to 11.5% of 10th graders that currently smoke in Ohio, and 8.8% nationally.
Advocates for raising the purchase age to 21 say it will make it more difficult for high school students to get their older friends to buy cigarettes for them.
In comparison, the report found that 16% of Adams County adults were current smokers, 38% were considered former smokers, and 84% do not currently smoke. 49% of current smokers responded that they had stopped smoking for at least one day in the past year because they were trying to quit.
Adams County adult cigarette smoking rates were lower than the Ohio and U.S. rates, but more than the Healthy People 2020 goal of 12 percent.
Healthy People 2020 is a nationwide health-promotion and disease-prevention program established by the United States Department of health and Human Services.
Adams County adult survey participants also reported current use of other tobacco products every day or some days: e-cigarettes (9%), chewing tobacco or snuff (7%).
According to reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2011 to 2015, the usage of e-cigarettes tripled among current smokers. Among high-school students, it increased tenfold within four years. In fact, most high school students are using e-cigarettes at a higher rate than they use regular cigarettes.
Peter Shields, deputy director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center and leader of the OSU study, said the popularity of e-cigarettes raises concerns because their impact remains unknown.
“There are people who worry that e-cigs won’t do anything to smokers, except delay their potential quitting, and then people are very worried about kids who are using these products,” Shields wrote. “The first question is are users going to become nicotine-addicted? The second question is that are they going to transition to cigarettes?”
In 2016, the American Cancer Society (ACS) stated that tobacco use was the most preventable cause of death worldwide, and is responsible for the deaths of approximately half of long-term users. Each year, tobacco use is responsible for almost six million premature deaths, 80% of which are in low-and middle-income countries, and by 2030, this number is expected to increase to 8 million (Source: Cancer Facts & Figures, American Cancer Society, 2016).
Nearly 60 percent of Ohio voters in 2006 approved the Ohio Smoke Free Law. Since then, Ohio’s adult smoking rate has fallen to 21.6 percent, still well above the national average of 15.1 percent.
Shelly Kiser of the American Lung Association’s Ohio chapter told the Dayton Daily News, “The smoking rates have definitely decreased because of this law and we’ve seen (negative) health outcomes, like heart attacks, reduced.”
According to Kiser, the public is very supportive of the smoke-free law.
“There has been so many positive aspects to this law,” she said. “But it hasn’t solved our smoking problem in Ohio, obviously.”
OHIP also asked Ohio adults if they favored or opposed a 65 cent per pack tax increase in the cost of cigarettes – a proposal that was under consideration at the time of the poll. More than half, 53 percent, favored a tax increase.
The OHIP study was funded by Interact for Health, an independent nonprofit promoting healthy living in 20 counties throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The study was conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 836 adults from across Ohio took part in the study which included 430 landline telephone and 406 cell phone interviews.