Oxford aims to curb youth smoking access with tobacco license

Credit: Marshall Ritzel

Credit: Marshall Ritzel

License would require business owners to pay fee to sell tobacco products.

The City of Oxford is planning to tackle youth tobacco use with a potential ordinance that would limit the sale of tobacco products in the city.

The ordinance would declare a city tobacco license, which was recently upheld by Gov. Mike DeWine in Ohio. The Oxford license would require tobacco retailers in the city to register and pay a fee to sell tobacco products. Similar ordinances are also in progress in Hamilton.

The ordinance is still in its early planning phases. Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said the hope is to write up and bring forward an ordinance to city council in March 2023, with an ultimate goal of implementing it by 2024.

The potential tobacco license would have two goals. Limit youth access to tobacco products, and improve a sense of place. Currently, in Oxford, there are 21 tobacco retailers in an area of just over 7.5 square miles.

“There is some concern at the high number of tobacco retailers in a very tiny area,” Greene said. “And so working to diversify, not to prohibit them, but diversify where they can be, how many can be in a certain area.”

Greene said the city approached the Butler County General Health District (BCGHD) on the implementation of a tobacco license as a result of feedback from the community.

The Coalition for a Healthy Community-Oxford Area, led by Amy Macechko, was one to express concern over youth smoking habits. Macechko, who also is the health and wellness coordinator for the Talawanda School District, said in Talawanda High School’s latest student drug use survey, e-cigarette use was the number one drug of choice, with many reporting ease of access in Oxford.

“With the concern around the safety of our youth, the health of our youth, and having that data, we introduced it to city officials,” Macechko said. “I reached out to Jessica and wanted to kind of create that awareness that this is a policy that potentially could help address access issues.”

Greene said parents and community members also feel access to tobacco products is high in the city, especially for those still underage.

“We’ve also been hearing from residents concerned about youth access to vaping, and you know, I’ve had a few angry parent phone calls, like ‘my kid just got in trouble at school for vaping but they can walk into any store,’” Greene said. “This is their version of what’s going on, it’s just too accessible.”

Currently, city officials are working with the BCGHD to discuss the logistics of the ordinance.

BCGHD Health Promotion Director Erin Smiley, who is assisting in county-wide tobacco licensing efforts, said tobacco licenses are increasing in Ohio due to enforcement of Ohio’s tobacco 21 law, which raised tobacco purchase and use from 18 to 21 in the state.

“About a couple of years ago, Ohio passed tobacco 21, but there has never been any enforcement, our public health folks were still pretty busy with COVID the last few years,” Smiley said. “Now that that has started to calm down a bit, we’ve had more opportunity to explore other evidence-based practices, and enforcement of tobacco 21 is one of those things.”

Smiley said by holding retailers accountable for underage tobacco purchases, she hopes to reduce youth addiction to nicotine and tobacco.

“We want to make sure everyone’s following the same rules,” Smiley said. “and we know that there are some retailers out there that are better than others.”

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