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According to U.S. government statistics, about 90 percent of tobacco users become dependent on nicotine before their 21st birthday. That’s why University of Cincinnati assistant professor Ashley Merianos believes the Ohio governor’s push to raise the age to purchase tobacco products is the right decision.
As part of his state budget proposal, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has asked the Statehouse to approve raising the age to purchase tobacco products in Ohio from 18 to 21, including e-cigarettes and vaping supplies. Local laws increasing the minimum age have already been enacted in Ohio’s largest cities — Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.
Ohio has “tobacco use rates that are way higher than the rest of the nation,” says Merianos, whose research focuses on tobacco use and its health effects on adolescents. “We keep hearing how e-cigarette use has increased among youth, and we need to do something about it. By raising the legal age from 18 to 21, it will definitely have an impact in Ohio.”
Merianos’ research on the effects of secondhand and thirdhand smoke on teen health has garnered attention from around the world, and more recently her research on the means of acquiring e-cigarettes among adolescents earned her an award from the American Academy of Health Behavior. Merianos' impactful research exemplifies Academic Excellence, a major platform of UC's strategic direction, Next Lives Here.
She presents what she describes as “part two” of her research on adolescent e-cigarette use this week at the Pediatric Academic Societies conference, this time focusing on the flavors and brands that are most prevalent among daily and nondaily adolescent vapers. Merianos' findings further support the need to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products.
A secondary analysis of data from the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that compared to nondaily users, daily e-cigarette users were more likely to try more flavors, try more brands and vape cannabis products.
While fruity and candy flavors were predictably popular among daily users, daily and nondaily users were about equally likely to have tried menthol flavoring, which came as a surprise to Merianos. She theorizes that because menthol was not among the flavors banned by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, it lacks the same appeal as other flavors not found in cigarettes anymore.
While both daily and nondaily users acknowledged having used many popular brands such as Vuse, Blu and Halo, a large number of each listed “other.” Merianos suspects a large number of the “other” responses were in reference to Juul, a brand known for its concealable form and the high nicotine concentration of the “pods” Juul e-cigarettes use. Juul was not an option listed on the survey.
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