TALLMADGE — City Council is slated to continue consideration Thursday on a proposal to ban on the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 21.

"I do expect more discussion, which is a good thing. Robust and respectful discussion is at the core of democracy, and thankfully Tallmadge follows on that tradition," says Council member Michael Carano (At-Large), to whose committee the legislation is assigned.

City Council is considering legislation which would raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, from 18 to 21. Cory Kendrick, director of population health at Summit County Public Health. said he believes City Council’s adoption of the legislation would be a step in the right direction. In addition to preventing 18- to 21-year-olds from buying cigarettes, he suggested the move would have positive trickle-down effects in terms of students’ social circles. High school and middle school youngsters may have more readily access to 18-year-olds to buy them cigarettes and vaping products, Kendrick said, than to those who are 21 or older.

However, some residents who responded to a Facebook query posed by the Tallmadge Express suggest the adoption of such a law would infringe on the rights of young adults. "I’m very against smoking," Victoria Blatt wrote, "but regulating these things has zero impact on behavior." Mary Gutman asked if there is research backing up the claim that such a move would reduce tobacco use in the 18-to-21 year age group. "I’d like to see objective evidence cited before throwing another rule at people."

"Only if you raise the draft age to 21," wrote Nate Kobb. "Stop allowing ‘kids’ to die for our country if they can’t smoke and drink." 

Noting most long-term tobacco use begins in adolescence, Kendrick said the legislation, which is being promoted through an initiative by Summit County Public Health, would make it illegal for businesses to sell tobacco products like cigarettes and vaping pens to anyone under 21. "We know that by raising the age we can prevent many of them (youths) from ever starting (using tobacco-related products)," Kendrick said.

While the popularity of traditional cigarettes has diminished, Kendrick said, e-cigarettes use continues to rise. Citing the results of a survey conducted in Summit County schools, Kendrick said 37 percent of youths report they can obtain tobacco or tobacco-related products from retail stores and another 25 percent say they can get them from a friend or someone in their social circle.

Kendrick told Council last month that Summit County boasts a higher smoking rate than the national average. Data provided by Summit County Public Health indicates 95 percent of long-term smokers started before they turned 21.

Kendrick said he and his SCPH colleagues do not know the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, and won’t for several decades; however, he reported e-cigarettes contain multiple cancer-causing chemicals. Kendrick also said youngsters who use vaping products are seven times more likely to try traditional tobacco products, Kendrick said.

Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson and Stow have all rejected Tobacco 21, a measure that would have outlawed the sale of tobacco products or paraphernalia to anyone younger than 21.