Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cincinnati Set To Increase Age To Buy Tobacco Products

cigarette smoking

Cincinnati Council will vote Wednesday on an ordinance to raise the age to buy tobacco in the city from 18 to 21.
The Budget and Finance Committee approved the Tobacco 21 measure Monday by a 6-1 vote.

The ordinance would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. That includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and snuff.

A first violation would carry a fine of $500 and a second violation increase to $1,250.

It would also require businesses to pay $500 a year for a tobacco retail license to the city. There would be a $75 penalty for a late application or fee payment.

One speaker on the issue at Monday's meeting said 373 cities in 22 states have enacted similar legislation.  A report said other Ohio cities with a similar law include Akron, Dublin, Columbus and Cleveland.

The ordinance states "the ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use, and tobacco industry documents show that those who start smoking by the age of 18 are almost twice as likely to become lifetime smokers as those who start after they turn 21."

Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore is supportive of the ordinance.

"Nearly nine in 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by the age of 18," Moore said. "And then of those who began smoking as youth, 80 percent will continue on smoking until adulthood because of the powerful effects on nicotine."

Dr. Robert Summe is a radiation oncologist at The Christ Hospital. He said about half of his patients have cancer from the use of tobacco products. He added that the health care system is overwhelmed by this. 

"The Institute of Medicine generated the report in 2015 that concluded that changing the age to 21 from 18 would significantly cut smoking rates in our country," Summe said. "And the first community in Massachusetts to put this in place has already seen 50 percent decrease in their smoking rates among the teenage smokers."

The city is getting a $200,000 grant from Interact for Health to help with enforcing the ordinance for the first two years.

Opponents say the measure will hurt businesses in Cincinnati and raising the age to buy tobacco won't stop the illegal use of cigarettes and other products.


Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.