Local retailers still adjusting to higher age minimum to buy tobacco

By | 2018-02-05T08:36:26+00:00 Thursday, February 1, 2018|

Tobacco retailers are adjusting since enforcement of Columbus’ Tobacco 21 law went into effect in October.

The law outlaws sales of tobacco to persons under the age of 21.

The Tinder Box at Easton Town Center, a high-end retailer of tobacco products, has experienced little impact on their business operations.

“Mostly it’s morale,” said Steve Crain, the manager of the store, which has served Easton customers since 1999.

Crain said the business has educated residents about the new law, spurring disappointment among new and potential customers.

It’s been common for store employees to help adult customers younger than 21 find products and realize at the register they could not purchase the products.

“It was so poorly introduced to the area that we were educating people,” he said.

Crain said the law demonstrates society’s inconsistencies of when people are old enough to make their own decisions.

Crain said lawmakers are OK with adults, ages 18 to 21 years old, to vote and enlist in the military and minors driving at 16 years old but are not OK with young adults making decisions of what products they purchase.

“We’re pulling straws out of the hat,” Crain said.

Columbus City Council passed an ordinance in December 2016 to authorize Columbus Public Health to regulate tobacco retailers by licensing and enforcing civil fines associated with Tobacco 21.

The city health board also passed relevant city code in February with enforcement to start last fall.

The law prohibits selling tobacco products, product paraphernalia such as pipes and electronic smoking devices such as vape pens to people under the new age restriction.

Columbus was the sixth city to adopt a so-called Tobacco 21 ordinance, according to Tobacco 21 website, which promotes the prohibition of selling tobacco products to those under that age limit.

Upper Arlington was the first city to pass such a law in 2015 along with seven other cities in Ohio: Bexley, Grandview Heights, New Albany, Cleveland, Euclid, Powell and Dublin.

Such laws aim to curb youth access to tobacco and smoking products. Such laws aim to curb youth access to tobacco products.

In Ohio, there are about 259,000 children under the age of 18 who will die prematurely from smoking, according to Tobacco Free Kids website. There are about 20,200 adults who die each year from smoking. About 15.1 percent of Ohio high school students smoke and 16.3 percent of male students use cigars.

Nearly a third of cancer deaths are attributed to smoking and, from a monetary standpoint, smoking costs Ohio $5.6 billion in annual health care costs, according to the same site.

On the other hand, new regulations in general bring new hardships for retailers, said Alex Boehnke, manager of public affairs for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.

Retailers have to take up more time and resources to retrain staff and make other accommodations to comply with the new regulations, he said.

Columbus retailers affected by the Tobacco 21 law are also affected by the annual $150 license fee for each location. Therefore, costs can be burdensome for a retailer with 20 locations, Boehnke said.

Crain said he did not agree with the $150 fee.

“You change the number (for the age restriction) and we have to pay more money,” he said.

Additionally, passing such laws at the local level creates an uneven playing field for retailers, Boehnke said. He added that such issues should be brought up in the state legislature.

Tobacco 21 Ohio believes it can achieve a statewide law that would prohibit selling smoking and tobacco-related products to those under 21 at the grassroots level similar to how an indoor smoking ban became statewide in 2006.

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Local retailers still adjusting to higher age minimum to buy…

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