According to America’s Health Rankings, 23% of adults in Kentucky and 21% of adults in Ohio smoke compared to 16% nationally. Additionally, we know that 95% of all tobacco users start before the age of 21.
The increased rate of tobacco use we see in our region does not affect all groups of people equally. Studies have shown in the tri-state region there are four main disparities: people with lower income, young adults, African Americans, and people living in rural Kentucky counties. In order to reduce tobacco use we must address these disparities with a health equity focus, which means, “striving for the highest possible standard of health for all people and giving special attention to the needs of those at greatest risk of poor health, based on social conditions” (Braveman, 2014).
We know Big Tobacco will fight back, so we need everyone’s support for success. While many solutions are needed, here are efforts already underway in Southwest Ohio:
There are now more than 500 communities and 30 states (including Ohio in July 2019) who have taken action to increase the sale age of tobacco products to 21. Here in our region, the City of Cincinnati has served as a leader when city council passed an ordinance in December 2018. With support from the Cincinnati Health Department, a tobacco retail license program will support education and strong implementation of the tobacco 21 ordinance.
We encourage other communities to join with Cincinnati and pass a tobacco retail license ordinance to effectively implement and enforce Ohio’s tobacco 21 law. Whether you are a decision maker, community member or student, resources are available to support efforts in your community.
Having a first cigarette by age 18 makes it twice as likely one will become a lifelong smoker. Our brains do not fully develop until the age of 25, specifically the section that regulates decision making and impulse control. Nicotine exposure during brain development affects the way synapses are formed and can create elevated risk of addiction, mood disorders, and permanent diminished impulse control. Visit the toolkit.
Tobacco use is an addiction and quitting is an ongoing effort for individuals and requires significant support and incentives in their personal as well as professional life. The effects of tobacco use extend beyond the individual to their community. In order to create clean indoor air and smoke-free public places organizations need to work with all of their employees to create a plan to develop a 100% tobacco-free organization. Visit the toolkit.
Flavored tobacco products are a key marketing strategy used to entice young people to try smoking with popular flavors, such as cotton candy, gummy bears, and donuts. The CDC found a slight decline in students’ e-cigarette use in 2020; however, eight in 10 students report flavored e-cigarette usage despite FDA interventions. The lack of legislation surrounding flavored tobacco products is a loophole that leaves young people vulnerable to tobacco products marketed and sold in their communities. Visit the toolkit.
We need stronger regulation of the design, manufacturing, sales, and marketing of all tobacco products. Voluntary actions by Big Tobacco and the e-cigarette industry are not enough and are no substitute for mandatory, industry-wide regulatory action by the FDA. We ask that you join with us as we aim to develop and implement policy to make these changes in our own communities.
We urge local communities to take action. We can build a groundswell here in Ohio to further protect our kids from the marketing of these products.
For more on how you can help, check out the full Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Tobacco Endgame Toolkit and take a moment to visit AHA's You're the Cure Action Center to raise your voice with elected officials.