Akron City Council raises tobacco sales age from 18 to 21

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - It's official: Akron City Council voted Monday to raise the tobacco sales age from 18 to 21.

The change includes all tobacco and vaping products.

Akron officials -- as part of a collaboration with the Summit County Public Health Department -- introduced the legislation last month, and after three readings, city council approved the law.

The new legislation is one way the city hopes to cut down on the infant mortality rate.

"In looking at effective strategies to reduce infant mortality, smoking by young, expectant mothers was a key risk factor we needed to target," said Tamiyka Rose, the city of Akron's Health Equity Ambassador in March. "Looking at the data, it was clear that increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 could meaningfully reduce infant mortality rates and improve lifelong health outcomes for today's youth."

More than 290 cities have already increased the age of tobacco sales to 21, including nine other Ohio cities such as Cleveland and Columbus.

"Individuals who have never used tobacco by age 21 are unlikely to ever start smoking," said Summit County Public Heath's Director of Population Health Cory Kendrick. "While it is estimated to reduce retail sales by only 2 percent, increasing the smoking age to 21 can prevent approximately 90 percent of new smokers from ever starting the habit, by making it difficult to obtain during the years they are most susceptible to the addiction."

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the country.

"Nearly one in four pregnant women in Summit County age 18 to 21 smoked while pregnant," Kendrick added. "And pregnant women who smoke are more likely to experience the devastation of infant loss."

It is also a financial burden. Akron says, while citing a health policy study, that increased the tobacco sales age nationally to 21 could save approximately $212 billion over a 50-year period.

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