Ohio House OKs Higher Penalty For Underage Tobacco Sales

Ohio House OKs Higher Penalty For Underage Tobacco Sales
Ohio House OKs Higher Penalty For Underage Tobacco Sales

The Ohio House voted 80-6 Wednesday to approve a bill that would raise the punitive fines for repeatedly selling tobacco products to Ohioans under the age of 21.

Bill sponsor Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, told this news organization that the bill was borne out of her concern over the high prevalence of nicotine vape usage among underage students, a worry shared by law enforcement and school officials within her district.

“You can find (vapes or cartridges) in any school, in the bushes, you can find them in the bathrooms, you can find them anywhere,” Carruthers said. “One of the schools had a plumber come out at least once a week because kids were flushing (vape) cartridges down the toilet, which was costly to the school.”

Current law sets the fine for improperly selling tobacco products to underage customers at “up to” $250, which scales to “up to” $500 by the third violation. According to a bipartisan analysis of the proposal, House Bill 258 would mandate a minimum fine of $250 for first violation; a fine “up to” $500 for the second; a mandatory $500 fine for the third; a mandatory $1,000 fine for the fourth and a mandatory $1,500 fine for the fifth.

Carruthers said current law doesn’t do enough to incentivize business owners to verify customers’ age.

“(Shops) are being penalized, it’s just a very low penalty and they’re just kind of laughing it off,” the Butler County Republican said.

Talawanada High School Principal Scott Davie attested in committee that teen use of vapes during school hours has become a pertinent issue. According to him, it’s driven some districts to invest in “vape detectors” and more security personnel, but in tight-budget districts like his, it’s fallen on existing teachers and staff to confiscate the devices.

“Although we are actively implementing proactive measures — enforcing regulations, redirecting our disciplinary approach, and exploring cost-effective solutions — these efforts predominantly focus on the end-user and fall short of addressing the issue at its root: the point of sale,” Davie told the House Civil Justice Committee last November.

With its passage, the bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

Follow DDN statehouse reporter Avery Kreemer on X or reach out to him at [email protected] or at 614-981-1422.

About the Author

Avery is currently covering the Ohio Statehouse with a specific emphasis on this August’s historic vote on Issue 1. He also covers various areas in Butler County for the Journal-News including Oxford, Trenton and the West Chester businesses.



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