Tobacco will still be an issue despite age increase

As Ohio this fall joins the 17 other states that have raised the age for purchasing all tobacco and electronic cigarettes to 21, parents and guardians need to bear in mind something pointed out by Marietta City Schools Superintendent Will Hampton.

“The law is the law, we’re still a tobacco-free campus (but) Juuls, vaping and chew are huge problems for us,” he said. “At the high school they take Juuls from kids daily and it’s all over the middle schools, too.”

In other words, changing the age will have no effect on those who are already hooked — particularly on electronic cigarettes — and willing to break both the law and school rules. The vast majority of those students Hampton mentioned are not yet 18, let alone 21. How are they getting this stuff? Do their parents know? (For that matter, are they dipping in to their parents’ supplies?)

Tobacco use is deadly, addictive, expensive — and purchasing the products is against the law for these youngsters — yet none of those factors has stopped kids from becoming part of what Hampton rightly called “huge problems.”

It is possible raising the purchasing age will have a small effect. After all, 21-year-olds might be less likely to purchase for 16- and 17-year-old friends than perhaps an 18-year-old would be. But the problem is starting much younger than 21 or 18. From tobacco companies that still pretend they are not marketing to kids or other demographic groups, to parents and other relatives who continue to show their kids that tobacco products are used by people they love and respect, children are being influenced in ways that outweigh the consequences.

Real change is not going to come with the law, or the rules at school. Real change is going to come when we show (not just tell) our children tobacco use is not an appealing choice. Lawmakers, teachers and school administrators can’t do that alone. The clerks checking IDs at the store can’t do it, either. That part is up to you.