Springfield News-Sun

In tobacco ‘sting,’ customers under 21 successful­ly buy one-third of time

Springfiel­d leaders talking about need for tougher tobacco laws.

- By Vicky Forrest Contributi­ng Writer

A 2019 law enacted to curb the use of tobacco products among Ohio’s youth might need to be strengthen­ed, local officials said, after discussing a recent undercover operation to test the measure, called Tobacco 21.

Clark County Combined Health District Commission­er Charles Patterson recently offered an update to the Springfiel­d City Commission on the topic.

The Tobacco 21 law covers all tobacco products and alternativ­e nicotine products including e-cigarettes and vaping products. Clark County adopted measures to supplement the effort locally 18 months ago by enacting a local Tobacco Retailer Licensing and Sales ordinance.

Patterson provided city commission­ers with the results of a recent “sting” locally.

The Health District worked with underage purchasers who attempted to buy tobacco products from 84 Clark County area retail outlets in violation of the local ordinance. They were successful in one out of every three attempts, a failure rate that caused commission­ers concern.

State and local officials see efforts to prevent and control tobacco experiment­ation among youth as key to smoking prevention and the prevention of early death.

Based on the recent findings of the Health District review, Commission­er David Estrop expressed disappoint­ment, and Patterson indicated additional tweaks to the legislatio­n may need to be made to strengthen the effort.

Commission­er Krystal Phillips, who is an educator with Springfiel­d City Schools, indicated she had been approached by several parents with children in middle school who were upset when they discovered the ease

with which their children could access tobacco vape products.

“I’ve had parents say they’ve confronted owners about sales to youngsters,” Phillips said. “I’m glad to see some of the retail outlets they have mentioned are included in your list of offenders and will be cited for these violations.”

Retailers selling tobacco in Clark County are required to have a license for retail tobacco and parapherna­lia sales, which is issued by the Clark County Combined Health District annually. The fee for the license is $150 for each location where tobacco related sales are available.

There is also a $75 applicatio­n fee for the license. Patterson told commission­ers the fee essentiall­y covers the cost of implementa­tion of the measure.

The consequenc­es for violating the ordinance include a $500 fine for the first violation, which increases if there are additional offenses over the next two years to $1,000 per violation.

Retailers are required to post signs stating that the law prohibits the sale of tobacco related products to anyone under age 21. Not doing so could result in a denial, suspension or revocation of the license to sell.

State officials are not “doing much enforcemen­t” according to Patterson, so the local measure is an important step toward smoking prevention.

Assistant Mayor Rob Rue expressed frustratio­n that the marketing of vape related products specifical­ly targets youth, and asked how the local review of retail violations compared to other communitie­s.

“The outcome is similar to other communitie­s in Ohio,” Patterson said.

The goal of the state and local legislatio­n is to prevent youth from experiment­ing with tobacco products because most smokers initially engage in tobacco use while still adolescent­s, and sometimes even younger.

Patterson indicated evidence shows that “for every year young people hold off in the use of tobacco, they are less likely to become users for a lifetime.”

 ?? BILL LACKEY / STAFF ?? Signs on the counter of a Springfiel­d convenienc­e store remind customers they must be 21 years old to purchase tobacco products.
BILL LACKEY / STAFF Signs on the counter of a Springfiel­d convenienc­e store remind customers they must be 21 years old to purchase tobacco products.

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