A large coalition of local leaders gathered this morning to call for new legislation in the City of Columbus that would end the sale of flavored tobacco products. This would include both e-cigarettes (flavored vape juices) and traditional menthol cigarettes. According to the group, these products intentionally target children and minority groups in unhealthy and harmful ways.
“This Coalition represents approximately 125 community groups, public health advocacy organizations and faith institutions — and we are growing every day,” stated former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “Together, we are respectfully asking our elected officials in Columbus to consider the health consequences of leaving these flavored products on our shelves.”
Some of the members of this coalition include The American Lung Association, Columbus Public Health, Franklin County Public Health, United Way of Central Ohio, The American Heart Association, Columbus Urban League, OhioHealth, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and many other nonprofit organizations, government health entities, and faith-based organizations.
While the range of traditional tobacco cigarette flavors are fairly limited, e-cigarette flavors range in the thousands, with many focused on candy-like flavors that are more appealing to a younger demographic.
“We asked kids as part of a project if they would vape if it didn’t come in flavors, and they straight up said they wouldn’t use them,” said Matthew McKoy, youth intern with Columbus Public Health and recent South High School graduate.
Nana Watson, president of NAACP Columbus also pointed out that the the tobacco industry has targeted Black communities for over 70 years with menthol cigarettes, and data shows that smoking rates have increased in Franklin County for African American adults.
Any new law enacted by Columbus City Council would only impact the City of Columbus, and not suburban communities in the region. Governor Mike DeWine called for a similar statewide ban in 2019 and a bill was introduced that year but it was not passed.
Columbus has often led the state on smoking restriction laws, passing an indoor smoking ban in 2004, two years ahead of the statewide indoor smoking ban in 2006. In 2016, Columbus raised the purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21, and Ohio enacted the same restrictions three years later in 2019.
For more information, visit www.endtobaccotargeting.org.