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Tobacco 21: Change the age. Break the cycle.

Oct 17, 2019

Tobacco use remains the single most preventable cause of disease, death and disability in our region, and presents a burden to our health care system and economy.

We’ve made progress on tobacco: The percentage of adults who smoke has declined by more than half in the last 50 years.

But recent trends in youth tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, are cause for concern. About 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. report using e-cigarettes. Data from the Greater Cincinnati Adult Tobacco Survey show that a majority of adult smokers in our region began smoking before age 21.

The young adult brain continues to develop up to age 25. If we can get people to age 21 without starting to use tobacco, chances are reduced that they develop the habit.

Policies to raise the age of sale for tobacco to 21 can reduce youth use and prevent future tobacco-related disease and death.

Such policies are being implemented throughout the country. In our region:

  • Ohio’s Tobacco 21 policy went into effect Oct. 17. Passed as part of Gov. DeWine’s 2019 budget, it prohibits the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to youth.
  • Additional regulations in Cincinnati, effective Dec. 1, will create a licensing and enforcement system for tobacco retailers, helping to ensure that tobacco products—including e-cigarettes—are not sold to youth.
  • Health advocates in Southwestern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana continue to work toward policies to reduce youth tobacco use.

Learn more at

Dr. O’dell Moreno Owens is the president and chief executive officer of Interact for Health and InterAct for Change. Dr. Owens is a reproductive endocrinologist. He earned an MD, an OB/GYN residency and a master’s of public health degree from Yale University School of Medicine. He also obtained a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Harvard Medical School. In recent years, Dr. Owens has served as the Hamilton County Coroner, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President, and Interim Health Commissioner and Medical Director of the Cincinnati Health Department.

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