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Ohio Poll Shows Support for "Tobacco 21"

According to the National Institute for Health nearly 80 percent of all smokers begin before the age of 18. (Nerissa's Ring/Flickr)
According to the National Institute for Health nearly 80 percent of all smokers begin before the age of 18. (Nerissa's Ring/Flickr)
January 4, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – About 22 percent of Ohio adults are current smokers and data from a recent survey indicates that changes in policy could help reduce those numbers.

The Ohio Health Issues Poll examined public opinion on tobacco polices and found that six out of 10 adults in the state support raising the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 years old.

Interact for Health conducted the poll, and its president and CEO, Dr. O'dell Owens, says raising the age could dramatically improve public health as most smokers start before the age of 18.

"If you can pass Tobacco 21, requiring people to be 21 before they can buy cigarettes you may slow their process down and chances are that if people adhere to the law you have less people entering the smoking arena," he states.

Ohio's adult smoking rate is higher than the national average of 17 percent, and the state's youth smoking rate of 15 percent is one of the highest in the country.

Ohio has a per-pack cigarette tax of $1.60, and more than half of the people surveyed support raising the tax by 65 cents.

O'dell explains there is a direct correlation between cigarette taxes and smoking rates.

"The state that has the highest cigarette tax has the lowest smoking rates and some of the states, especially the tobacco growing states, that have some of the lowest tobacco tax have some of the highest smoking rates," he points out.

O'dell notes quitting smoking can add 10 years to a person's life. And he adds it's an especially important issue to address for lower-income communities, where one in four people smoke.

"A lot of low-income people are stressed by their housing situation, by lack of a job or even food,” he explains. “We certainly have interviewed mothers that have stated, 'You know I smoke so that I'm not as hungry and I can get more food to my kids. I can skip a meal by smoking.'"

The poll also shows that raising the tobacco sales age to 21 and increasing the cigarette tax are both widely supported regardless of political affiliation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH