LAKEWOOD, Ohio — A Lakewood city councilman says he will propose a bill at Monday’s council meeting to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.
In Ohio, 16 cities have passed a law to raise the smoking age to 21 and outlaw the sale of tobacco products to anyone younger, according to TobaccoFreeKids.org. Lakewood could become 17. There’s been six states that passed a law to raise the age limit to 21, but Ohio is still 18.
City councilman John Litten says he believes the change could save lives.
"95 percent [of smokers] who are addicted today started before the age of 21,” he said.
Litten says smoking has decreased over the years, but other methods such as vaping has increased, especially among the youth. The councilman says more could be done, starting with his bill.
"Perhaps we can prolong their life spans,” Litten said. “Keep them healthy longer and help them avoid a life of addiction to smoking and other products."
His goal is to save kids, but it’s also an issue near and dear to his heart. His dad smoked at an early age. Five years ago, he died of lung cancer.
"It's possible he would be here today if not for starting smoking at a young age,” Litten said.
Parker Drennan just turned 18. He celebrated with one of his first legal smokes.
"I would say I'm addicted,” Drennan said.
He says he got addicted to cigarettes at 16. Drennan says his parents, friends and almost everyone around him smoked.
"I hated cigarettes,” he said. “They use to make me sick. I just got more use it, and I just wanted to start smoking one day."
Parker is a senior at Lakewood High School. He says smoking and even vaping at a young age are far too common.
"Last year, seniors I knew at least half of them smoked and they were ready to sell them to freshman,” he said.
According to Tobaccofreekids.org, more than 300 kids under the age of 18 become daily smokers.
The possible health risks that comes along with smoking scares Parker’s friend, James Mihaly.
"I might not have a friend when I’m 50 because he might be dead,” Mihaly said.
But, maybe there's hope for Parker to quit. He says there's a chance if the bill is passed.
"As a smoker, I will reluctantly say yes this will help me stop smoking,” he said.
Litten says a vote on the bill shouldn’t be expected until January or February. He says he is hopeful it will pass.