States with a tobacco sales age law 21. Provided by American Lung Association
By Marla Hurston Fuller
and Governmental Relations
Cincinnati Health Department
Tobacco retailers in the City of Cincinnati are now subject to licensing and inspections as part of the implementation of the city’s Tobacco 21 law, which went into effect on December 1. This is the second wave of the ordinance: the sale of tobacco products to people under age 21 was made illegal at the time of passage on Dec. 12, 2018.
Cincinnati’s policy, with its licensing and inspection system, is more comprehensive than the state of Ohio’s Tobacco 21 regulation, which was effective on Oct. 17, 2019, but only restricts the sale of products.
The Cincinnati Health Department is overseeing enforcement of the ordinance and has developed the licensing system and compliance checks. For licensing, a health department inspector will visit each establishment to verify that proper signage is in place. Compliance checks consist of a visit by individuals under the age of 21 who will attempt to purchase tobacco products.
To date, more than 443 establishments selling tobacco have been identified within city limits. Of those, 69 have obtained the required license. The implementation work is supported by a grant from Interact for Health.
“T21 is an important strategy in reducing youth tobacco use and ultimately saving lives, and we’ve worked to make the licensing process as simple as possible for business owners,” said Melba R. Moore, DBA, MS, CPHA, commissioner, Cincinnati Health Department.
“The annual licensing period is from December 1 to November 30. Tobacco retailers can call the T21/TRL Help Line (513– 357-7274) with questions regarding T21 and tobacco retail licenses. Retailers can leave a message, which is responded to within two business days. Tobacco retail locations are required to display a current tobacco retail license, post Cincinnati Tobacco 21 signage at the point of sale and are subject to underage buy attempts (compliance checks) to ensure that tobacco/tobacco products are not being sold to persons under age 21. Compliance checks will be conducted regularly by the Cincinnati Health Department without prior notice to tobacco retailers. Retailers may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions,” Moore explained.
Establishments not in compliance with licensing or signage requirements or who sell tobacco products to individuals under age 21 are subject to enforcement actions that include education, civil fines up to $1,250 and revocation of licensing after subsequent violations.
The law restricts the sale of all tobacco products, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, snus; and all electronic smoking devices and tobacco product paraphernalia, whether or not they contain nicotine.
“You’d be hard-pressed to come up with legitimate arguments against Tobacco 21 legislation,” said Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard. “Even lifelong smokers know that cigarettes are bad for them. Over 90% of smokers started before they were 21 years old.
“While teen smoking is down among teens in most demographics, in low-income communities where people are more likely to self-medicate, this isn’t the case.
“On top of that, infant mortality rates are incredibly high in Cincinnati. In lower income communities, they’re higher than the national average. Physicians and public health experts will tell you that tobacco use is at the root of many of these deaths. Tobacco companies specifically target these communities. I won’t apologize for looking after the health of those I serve. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Let that sink in – ‘preventable disease and death.’ The health of our community matters. That’s why I championed and continue to support Tobacco 21 legislation in Cincinnati.”
Survey shows support for Tobacco 21 policies
Currently, Tobacco 21 policies have been enacted in 18 states and more than 500 localities nationwide. With its licensing and enforcement components, Cincinnati’s policy is among the strongest in ensuring retailer compliance and restricting youth access to tobacco products.
Many support such measures. The Greater Cincinnati Adult Tobacco Survey, conducted on behalf of Interact for Health, found that 62% of adults in the 22-county Greater Cincinnati region favor Tobacco 21 policies. Further, among respondents who currently or previously used tobacco, 74% indicated support for measures to reduce youth use.
The survey also showed high rates of initiation of tobacco use among young people in the region. About nine in 10 (92%) of current or former smokers said that they began using tobacco before age 21.
“A crucial aspect of Tobacco 21 policies are that they are effective in delaying the age at which individuals first use or become regular users of tobacco products,” said Dr. O’dell M. Owens, president and CEO of Interact for Health. “As the survey data show, many in our region become addicted to tobacco prior to age 21. If we can reduce access to tobacco among our youth and young adults, many may never become tobacco users.”
For more information on tobacco retailer licensing and enforcement, visit www.tinyurl.com/T21Cincy. For more information on Tobacco 21, visit http://www.t21cincy.com/. For more information on the Greater Cincinnati Adult Tobacco Survey, visit https://www.interactforhealth.org/about-tobacco-survey/.