Raising minimum age to 21 for tobacco use could be gaining momentum

Raising minimum age to 21 for tobacco use could be gaining momentum

BOWLING GREEN, OH (WTOL) - A big change could be coming to who is allowed to light up or chew tobacco, but many young people aren't going to be happy about it.

A number of cities outside of Northwest Ohio have already passed new regulations, like Cleveland, Ann Arbor, and some suburbs around Columbus. It's all modeled after the Tobacco 21 campaign.

If cities or states pass legislation, it would raise the legal minimum sales age for tobacco from 18 up to 21. Age restrictions would be on cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.

The Wood County Prevention Coalition hosted a meeting two weeks ago to provide more information about Tobacco 21. The Coalition says E-cigarettes would also be banned until 21 years of age. Prevention Coalition leaders say one in five deaths are attributed to tobacco use and they want to change that.

"Those that are 18 that are able to purchase legally also distribute to their younger counterparts and so that's what we're trying to basically advocate, a policy that would help delay the availability to those that are predisposed to addiction," said Milan Karna of the Wood County Prevention Coalition.

Karna said the Coalition is ready to provide information to municipalities that want to look into the change. He said it's an issue close to him, personally.

"I didn't get to quit smoking until my mid-twenties and so that was a struggle, an affliction I had to deal with many years. And I think many people have a similar type of story," said Karna.

While some see the benefits, others do not. Dameon Nigh is an 18 year-old BGSU student who chews tobacco. He doesn't want his rights taken away.

"It would make me pretty upset. I've been doing it for a year and a half, almost two years now, and now I just want to be able to do it, I'll have to wait until I'm 21," said Karna.

When asked about people or agencies that claim it would be better for people's health if they waited until 21, Nigh said, "Well, I don't think someone should tell me how to determine my health. It's my body. I should be able to do what I want to it."

One other smoker in Bowling Green said he's okay with the Tobacco 21 plan, saying the people behind it have good intentions and it might have kept him from starting smoking.

Raising the tobacco age to 21 has been before city council in Maumee in recent years but no action was taken on it.

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