Thanks to Ohio’s “Tobacco 21” Law, You Can No Longer Buy Nicotine Starting Today

Published on October 17, 2019

Before today, young adults and adolescents under 21 could easily purchase cigarettes, tobacco products, and/or alternative nicotine products. Well in the State of Ohio, no more.

As of today, Ohio’s new “Tobacco 21” law raises the age to purchase these products, including e-cigarettes and vaping products from 18 to 21. Additionally, it is now illegal to give these products to an individual under 21, so don’t even try to be sneaky.

Ohio’s “Tobacco 21” Law

Source: Ohio Department of Health

Ohio is one of 18 states raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco-related products, including cigarettes, cigars, and electronic cigarettes and/or vapes.

The State of Ohio joins Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, along with Washington, D.C. and over 500 localities.

Under the law, codified under Ohio Revised Code 2927.02, retailers are now required to post a sign indicating that it is illegal to sell tobacco and alternative nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21.

The Ohio Department of Health has made a sign for immediate use available through their website, or allow retailers to order and/or download signage at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

For those clerks who think they can skate on by under the law, they have another thing coming. Ohio’s Revised Code outlines the types of products covered under the law:

  • Cigarettes
  • Electronic smoking devices (vapes, e-cigs, tanks)
  • Cigars
  • Pipe tobacco
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Snuff
  • Snus
  • Dissolvable nicotine products
  • Filters, rolling papers, pipes, blunts, or hemp wraps
  • Liquids used in electronic smoking devices (whether or not they contain nicotine)
  • Vapor products (any component, part or additive that is intended for use in an electronic smoking device, a mechanical heating element, battery, or electronic circuit and is used to deliver the product, see ORC 2927.02 for full list)

Tobacco and vapor products do not include any product that is a drug, device, or combination product as those terms are defined or described in 21 U.S.C. 321 and 353(g), which specifically identify products such as nicotine replacement therapy for use when quitting tobacco. In other words, your nicotine patches fall outside of the scope of Ohio’s new law.

What Happens If You Ignore The Law?

Source: Ohio Department of Health

In the event a clerk chooses to sell tobacco and/or alternative nicotine products to a person under 21, he or she along with the owner of the retail establishment may face criminal penalties that increase after the first violation.

For a first-time offense, a clerk who sells to an individual under 21, will be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor and may be subject to a maximum of 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250, while the retail establishment is subject to a fine of $2,000.

Why Now?

Source: Ohio Department of Health

By now, if you haven’t accepted that technology is changing the way our markets are immersing themselves in our culture, I would suggest visiting outlets such as Cheddar, Digital Trends, or hey, us.

Over the past month, investigations into the increasing number of illnesses and deaths associated with vaping have grown. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC.

The Ohio Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are now involved with 1,300 cases nationwide with at least 32 Ohio cases confirmed as of October 15. While no deaths have been reported in Ohio, 29 of the 32 cases have required hospitalization.

The nation is concerned as is the State of Ohio—with the nationwide fentanyl epidemic along with Montgomery County, Ohio being one of the heroin capitals of the world, it’s no surprise that Ohio is also at the top of the map when it comes to vaping-related incidents.

Grit Daily reached out to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office for comment on the Tobacco 21 law, but have not heard back from the Governor himself yet.

According to DeWine and other supporters of this change, the new law is intended to help prevent children from becoming smokers in addition to curbing the risk of nicotine addiction as those groups reach the legal age.

National statistics have shown Ohio has one of the highest rates of adult smokers at just over 21%.

Research indicates that approximately 95% of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21,” said DeWine. “Increasing the age to 21 will reduce the chances of our young people starting to smoke and becoming regular smokers.”

According to the Ohio Department of Health, evidence suggests that nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has long-term impacts on brain development. “Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Action, MD, MPH.

Raising the sales age for tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 means that those who can legally obtain these products are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.”

As for Ohio’s new law, Dr. Action stated that they will be strictly enforcing the law.

“We will be doing compliance checks and doing underage buys to make sure that people are protecting young people…we know this will save lives and that’s what this law is about.”

For more information on Ohio’s new “Tobacco 21” law, you can download the Tobacco 21 Infographic or go to or call the toll-free hotline at 1-855-OHIO-T21. ODH’s Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW offers free resources, including non-judgmental quit coaches for quitting tobacco and vaping products.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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