City of Akron, OH

04/16/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/16/2018 19:50

2018-04-16 - City of Akron Passes Legislation to Raise the Age for Tobacco Sales in Akron from 18 to 21

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City of Akron Press Release
From the desk of Ellen Lander Nischt, Press Secretary
Published: 04-16-2018

Akron, Ohio, April 16, 2018 - Tonight, Akron City Council voted to pass legislation that increased the age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 in the City of Akron. Akron's Tobacco-21 legislation was co-sponsored by Councilwoman-at-Large Linda Omobien and supported by a majority of Council members.

'I'm proud that, tonight, Akron City Council joined me in choosing a healthier future for our next generation,' Mayor Horrigan said. 'While I respect opinions on all sides of this issue, I know this legislation puts Akron on the right side of history.'

'This legislation will help delay or prevent our next generation of young adults from experiencing the harmful effects of tobacco use and addiction, including premature birth and infant mortality, by making it more difficult for them to start a deadly habit,' Mayor Horrigan continued. 'And our young people will not pay the price - teens caught smoking will not be fined or cited, instead Akron retailers who sell to underage users will be held accountable and subject to civil penalties. I'm grateful for the community's substantial support of this effort, and I look forward to working together to educate our residents and businesses and implement this new tool to improve public health and wellbeing in Akron.'

The primary impetus for Akron's legislation was the research of Tamiyka Rose, the City's Health Equity Ambassador, who is charged with developing practical ways to reduce the City's abysmal rate of infant mortality. 'In looking at effective strategies to reduce infant mortality, smoking by young, expectant mothers was a key risk factor we needed to target,' Rose said of the initiative. '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.'

'I will never tolerate a scenario where Akron babies are more likely to die before their first birthday than babies born in other communities,' Mayor Horrigan said of his support for the proposal.

More than 290 cities and counties across 19 states have increased the age for tobacco sales to 21, a movement commonly referred to as 'Tobacco 21 '. Since 2015, 9 other Ohio cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, have passed similar laws.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. Not only is it costly in terms of human life, it has a tremendous financial toll. According to health policy research, increasing the national sales age for tobacco to 21 could save society an estimated $212 billion over a 50-year period.

The Tobacco 21 strategy is proven to not just delay, but prevent, tobacco use in young people across their lifetimes. Military leaders are supportive of raising the tobacco age to 21 due to tobacco's negative impact on military readiness (more info available here).

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

And the link to infant mortality and premature birth is clear. 'According to 2014 data, in Summit County, pregnant women under age 21 smoke at a rate that is 70% higher than their older counterparts,' Kendrick continued. 'Nearly one in four pregnant women in Summit County age 18 to 21 smoked while pregnant. And pregnant women who smoke are more likely to experience the devastation of infant loss.'

Akron zip codes 44320, 44307 and 44306 have some of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, nearly double the national average. In 2016, 30 Akron babies died before their first birthday.

'If we are serious about giving Akron babies the best possible start to life, we must be willing to challenge structures and institutions that reinforce poor maternal health,' Tamiyka Rose said. 'Tobacco use is a clear risk factor, and one we could do something about. Today, we took an important step in the right direction.'

Summit County Public Health will enact rules related to Tobacco 21 in Akron and educate businesses about the new law. A fact sheet with more information about the Akron Tobacco 21 initiative is available here.

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For further information, contact:
Ellen Lander Nischt
Press Secretary / Assistant Director of Law
Phone: 330 2087784
E-mail: [email protected]