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Local doctor tests Tobacco 21 enforcement; says 9 stores sold to underage teen

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio
A local doctor took research into his own hands when asking the Franklin County Board of Health to enforce city ordinance Tobacco 21.

“I don’t like surprising people like this, but I had to get their attention,” said Dr. Rob Crane, a family medicine physician for Ohio State. “I came to the same board meeting and made a presentation, down on one knee begging for their help and they ignored me.”

Tobacco 21 makes the legal age to purchase tobacco products 21 years of age in Bexley, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Grandview and Dublin.

Crane says he’s spent the last 16 months asking the Department to run youth-based stings as a way to see if retailers are following the law.

“They don’t want to be involved in stings. I’ve told them, this is not James Bond,” he said.
So, Crane worked with Christal Welch, a 19-year-old college student to see how many stores would sell to her.

Of the 18 stores they went to in the central Ohio area, nine sold to her overlooking her age or not checking ID.

“I was shocked,” Welch said. “Half the time they would ask ‘are you old enough?’, and I would say yes, but they didn’t ask for my ID. Other times, they would look at my ID that says I’ll be 21 in 2019, and they still sold it to me.”

Tuesday, Welch and Dr. Crane presented their findings to the Franklin County Board of Health.

Massachusetts Poised to Become Sixth State to Raise Tobacco Age to 21

Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, issued a press release thanking Rep. Paul McMurtry and Sen. Jason Lewis for their leadership in sponsoring legislation that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 and includes other important public health protections.

With final passage by the Legislature today, Massachusetts is poised to become the sixth state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21.  This legislation will prevent young people in Massachusetts from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

In addition to raising the tobacco age to 21, the Massachusetts legislation prohibits pharmacies from selling tobacco products and adds e-cigarettes to the state’s smoke-free law. Massachusetts will be the first state to enact a statewide prohibition on tobacco sales in pharmacies. In his press release, Myers highlights the importance of this legislation to Massachusetts:

“In Massachusetts, tobacco kills over 9,300 people and costs over $4 billion in health care expenses each year. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, over 100,000 kids alive today in Massachusetts will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.”

Survey Finds E-Cigarettes are Problem in Ridgefield

Even before they surveyed hundreds of residents on the issue, high-schoolers Mitchell van der Noll and Aiden Williams knew e-cigarettes was a growing problem among teenagers in town.

The high school seniors, who distributed the survey as interns with Town Hall this spring, said the number of students using the devices has “exploded” over the last year or two.

Students can be found smoking e-cigarettes in the high school bathrooms, in the parking lots, at parties outside of school and most recently, at the middle schools, they said. Most use the newest device, a Juul vape pen.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Williams said. “You can see anyone from any social group using them at kind of any time. If you go into the bathroom at the high school there’s probably a greater than 50 percent chance you would find someone (smoking).”

The survey, distributed on a community Facebook page, revealed that Ridgefielders are taking notice. More than 39 percent of the 240 people surveyed said e-cigarettes surpass alcohol, heroin, marijuana and cocaine as the “most relevant substance abuse problem in our community today.”

About 97 percent said they have heard of the “widespread usage amongst teenagers” and almost 91 percent that they knew about high schoolers vaping in bathrooms during school.

Our View: Minnesota’s cities continue to lead in snuffing smoking

With elected state leaders still mostly just blowing smoke, Minnesota’s cities continue to take steps to improve health, clear the air, and prevent young Minnesotans from being ensnared by the deadly dangers of cigarettes and tobacco use.

Last week, St. Peter became the ninth Minnesota city in just a little over a year to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21. It joined Edina, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Shoreview, Falcon Heights, and Minneapolis in passing so-called “Tobacco 21” policies.

“Seeing local entities take charge of tobacco-prevention measures in their communities: That is so encouraging to us,” Anne Mason of the Minneapolis-based smoking-cessation group ClearWay Minnesota said in an interview last summer with the News Tribune Opinion page.

At that time, only Edina had raised the legal age to buy tobacco, and only a couple of other cities in our state were taking their first steps. Imagine Mason’s giddiness now.

“(Raising the legal age) takes it out of a high school kid’s social circle. If (tobacco companies) don’t get to you before age 21, chances are you won’t become an addicted adult,” she said. “(Local communities taking charge, taking action) is how great policies have passed in the past, and clearly Duluth has been a leader in this, in protecting clean indoor air, even with e-cigarettes, before the state had acted.”

Tobacco 21 is chance to save teens from addiction

This year, we are celebrating 10 years of a Smoke Free Illinois. This law, while controversial when it was being passed, has become a new, healthier norm. Most young adults barely remember when smoking was allowed everywhere and cannot comprehend people smoking in restaurants and public spaces.

Now, it is time for another new, healthy norm: Tobacco 21. Why 21? Increasing the minimum legal age for sale of tobacco products to 21 years of age will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and over time save thousands of lives.

For 17 years, the teen tobacco use rate in our state was on the decline thanks to education and strong laws that kept this addictive and deadly product out of the hands of our youth. Now, because of heavy advertising, easy access, concealable electronic cigarettes and fruit and candy flavors, tobacco use is once again increasing among Illinois teens. In fact, in 2015 (the latest data available) 32.8 percent of Illinois high school youth reported using tobacco products.

Tobacco 21 laws focus on protecting youth from the death and disease associated with tobacco use. Nearly 95 percent of addicted adult smokers started smoking before they turned 21. If we can keep young people from getting hooked on tobacco products before their 21st birthday, they will likely never become addicted.

Tobacco 21 is our opportunity to stop the tobacco industry from capturing today’s young people as tomorrow’s customers. The American Lung Association encourages elected officials at all levels to support Tobacco 21 policies.

Kathy Drea, Vice President, Advocacy

American Lung Association in Illinois