Monday was a bad day for tobacco users in Cleveland, Ohio as the city council approved not only an increase in the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21-years-old, but also said that beginning in 2016 it will strive to have a tobacco-free workforce, meaning it will be less likely to hire tobacco users and will also actively encourage current employees who use tobacco to quit.
The age increase was approved by a vote of 13-3 and will go into effect 120 days after the mayor signs it, which puts the start date in early to mid April 2016 at the earliest.
As has been done in other municipalities, the burden will fall exclusively on sellers of tobacco products to ensure that their customers are of age. First time violations would earn a retailer a $250 fine, while repeat offenses jump to a second degree misdemeanor, which carries up to a 90-day jail sentence. There are no fines or penalties for a person under the age of 21 using or possessing tobacco products or electronic smoking devices.
More drastically however, was the 14-2 approval of a new guideline that will take effect in 2017 and could direct all city departments to only hire applicants who are not tobacco users. While the language of the bill says that the city will strive to have a tobacco-free workforce, part of that is undertaking a year long study on the effects of not hiring tobacco users, which could become the de facto protocol by January 2017.
A third proposal that would have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products except in retail tobacco stores was tabled for more discussion as the council seeks to clarify what constitutes flavorings and what effect it would have on menthol products, according to Cleveland.com.
With a population of just over 390,000 residents, Cleveland is the second largest city in Ohio.