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Ohio raises smoking age to 21: New budget increases funds to fight substance abuse

In an effort to cut down on the number of smokers in Ohio, the minimum age to buy tobacco or tobacco-related items has gone up to 21.

On Thursday morning, Gov. Mike DeWine signed the state budget which included wording to raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, rolling papers and vaping liquid. It also puts a 10 cent per milliliter tax on vaping products.

Ohio has now joined 17 other states that raised the smoking age to 21 including Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. There were 23 cities, including Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, where a person had to be 21 to buy smoking products.

According to the Truth Initiative, in 2013, 8.6 percent of high school students in Ohio used chewing tobacco, snuff or dip on at least one day in the past 30 days and 11.5 percent of high school students in Ohio smoked cigars, cigarillos or little cigars on at least one day in the past 30 days.

DeWine also passed several laws to help out with drug abuse issues including $12 million to expand the Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) program, which he started while serving as attorney general. The program helps local governments offer concentrated, critical services to parents struggling with substance use disorder. Support is also provided to children who are traumatized due to parental addiction.

Another $5 million would go towards creating 30 more specialized courts over the new two years that would give judges the ability to send defendants to treatment rather than jail. The budget also increases funding for local drug task forces by $2.5 million in 2020 and 2021 to help local authorities intensify their efforts to combat Ohio’s drug epidemic.