Local Tobacco Regulations Under Threat by Ohio State Legislation


A new Ohio legislation slated to take effect in April could prevent local jurisdictions from restricting children’s and teenagers’ access to tobacco.

In January, the Ohio General Assembly rejected Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a law prohibiting cities and other governments from banning or regulating tobacco products.

However, the new rule prohibits local governments from implementing any tobacco-related statute or regulation, including those aimed at keeping tobacco out of kids’ hands.

The state has depended on certain jurisdictions, such as the Cincinnati Health Department, to enforce the age limitations.

This includes a scheme established in 2018 that restricts tobacco product sales to those aged 21 and up only.

Since then, the city has experienced a 37% decrease in teenagers purchasing tobacco products.

In 2023, the government cited or denied license renewals to 25 separate establishments after undercover minors purchased tobacco there.

That’s a huge decrease from six years ago, but health department officials believe the program will not be able to continue under the new rule.

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to continue the enforcement efforts that have been successful in reducing youth tobacco product purchases,” said Tiffany White, health programs manager for the Cincinnati Health Department.

The proposed ordinance is the result of the Columbus City Council’s prohibition on flavored vaping goods, as well as one introduced in Cincinnati last summer by City Councilmember Victoria Parks.

According to Ohio Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati), the predicament was precipitated by politicians pushing through the initial legislation to make a political statement.

“Were you aware of this particular loophole and what, if anything, are you, particularly, going to do about it?” Local 12 inquired.

“Yes, of course, if there’s an issue here with keeping local governments from actually going in and making sure that young people are not buying cigarettes and buying tobacco, we absolutely will look into it,” the representative stated.

According to an American Lung Association research from 2023, about 37% of Ohio’s high school kids had used a tobacco product, one of the highest rates in the country.

The state received more than $1.2 billion in tobacco settlements and taxes, but according to the report, Ohio only funds tobacco control initiatives at 13% of the CDC’s recommendations. The Ohio legislature only has voting sessions on April 10 and 24, with the latter being the day the new law enters into effect.

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