Tobacco 21 and the outbreak of fakes

Photo by Brooke Little

Fake IDs have been popular for decades because it grants access to things such as alcohol and tobacco to underage people. The age for purchasing alcohol has been 21 since 1984 and purchasing tobacco has been 18 since 1994. However, these age restrictions haven’t stopped those who don’t meet that age from obtaining those substances.

A recent ordinance called “Tobacco 21” took effect on Oct. 1 that requires stores and gas stations, within the city of Columbus limits, to require an ID of the age of 21 in order to purchase all tobacco products, as opposed to the previous age of 18. 18 states have already adopted it, and parts of Ohio are now the most recent on the list.

Products included, but not limited to, are cigarettes/cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, any electronic smoking device, rolling papers and any juice used in electronic smoking devices, according to This includes both the Juul device and the pods that contain nicotine, the flavor of juice that needs to be replaced after usage. With the onset of this new law and people needing to be 21 to purchase tobacco-related products, it has the potential to increase the number of fake IDs being used.

“My sister buys me pods for the Juul and alcohol when I want with her fake ID. I think more people will get fake IDs because of the new ordinance since [fake IDs] will have more uses,” an anonymous junior said.

In recent years, the United States has seen a 22.5 percent decline associated with underage drinking in only a decade, according to www.responsibility. org. This decline may not just be a sign of better underage drinking prevention being implemented, but rather a shift from underage drinkers to smoking and vape owners in high schools nationally.

Tobacco 21 is now being implemented in Franklin County and many other areas surrounding the Columbus area.

“We didn’t choose to have the Tobacco 21 rule at our store. It was a legislation put in, and I’ve definitely noticed fewer younger customers coming in to buy certain tobacco products,” said Mary, a worker at Speedway Polaris where the Tobacco 21 ordinance is in place.

Many gas stations and convenience stores have still decided to not take part in Tobacco 21, whether because they are outside the area of forced legislation or haven’t been contacted yet.

Both GetGo and Turkey Hill in Westerville, who still have their ages set at 18 for tobacco products, didn’t want to comment.

Nowadays, there are many uses for fake IDs. Teens can use them to get into bars, buy alcohol from liquor stores, get into clubs and buy Juuls or vape pens. “Sometimes it’s very hard to tell a fake from real. They have companies online that make college students’ Ohio driver’s license that look real, feel real and, if I use my Scanner app, it’s going to scan the proper information. So at that point, I’ve done everything within the law I can do [to combat them],” said a bartender at Tommy O’Bryans pub and OOHS 2010 graduate Morgan Reveille.

Bars tend to see more cases of fakes in the fall since it’s the beginning of a new school year, according to Reveille.

“I got my fake ID when I was 17, in the middle of senior year at Olentangy Orange High School. I use it for mostly bars in college and to get alcohol in restaurants, but rarely at liquor stores,” said a freshman at Ohio State University, who would like to remain anonymous.

Using fake IDs to get into bars and buy alcohol can be risky since, according to school resource officer, Deputy Martin, if he finds someone using the ID, he will confiscate the ID and call the parents of the teen. The police will also try to find where they got the ID so they can do an investigation on the site or the provider and get it shut down, even though it can be a tricky process due to firewalls and hackers.

“Well I hope high schoolers aren’t using fake IDs, but I was also a high schooler myself not too long ago. I hope people realize that if you get busted in high school, it can and will affect you getting into college and any scholarships you may have gotten. Most colleges prefer you don’t have underage charges on your record entering college,” said Reveille.

“As a source of income in college, I used a fake ID to buy and resell alcohol. One time I went in to buy alcohol for some friends, and I was caught. I was later charged with misrepresentation. I got no jail time, but, I got a hefty fine that ended up being right around the amount of money I had made selling the alcohol over a six-month period,” a local Orange parent said.

According to the anonymous source, they and most of their friends got fakes in the middle of senior year when they were either 17 or 18. They said it was surprisingly easy to acquire an ID and then use. They haven’t gotten denied at any bar or liquor store yet. “I would say almost all my friends either vape/Juul and also drink alcohol occasionally, so fake IDs being available to us and people we know definitely helps us get certain things when we need them,” an anonymous student said.

Bartenders occasionally ask certain, probing questions if they suspect someone is using a fake.

“If I ever have any inkling that an ID may be fake, I will ask a few questions to see if they are quick to respond. For example, ‘You live in Nebraska, that sure is far from Columbus, what brings you here?’” Reveille said.

Although fake ID’s are popular in this day and age, they aren’t the only way adolescents can obtain substances illegal to them. Having legal age friends or siblings contribute to the small decrease of fake IDs and with tobacco products being legal at age 18 in Delaware County, people don’t need them as much.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal anymore because culture has changed. It’s still an issue. They’re just not as popular anymore as they used to be,” said Martin.

But, the Tobacco21 law might increase the usage and purchase of fakes. The source of fake ID purchases could lie in an issue many students have: using a vapor device called the Juul.

If people who use juuls frequently get addicted to the nicotine in them, it will be very hard to stop that addiction when the legal age to buy juuls becomes older than 18. Those people will still need that nicotine, and having a fake ID will make it quick and easy to feed their addictions.

Minors are experiencing the consequences of alcohol too early in their lifetime. Underage drinking is a leading public health problem in the US. “Since underage drinking disrupts normal decision making, you tend to find yourself in situations that you otherwise would never imagine you being in. You can’t handle those situations because you are under the influence,” Dr. Terry Barber, a doctor on the Physician team at Nationwide Children’s’ Hospital said. “From a doctor’s standpoint, there would be a greater incidence of injury and even death simply because you do things due to the effects of being under the influence and the judgment and coordination issues. You could die - I’ve seen it.”

Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States since it’s the most widely-used substance of abuse among America’s youth. According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking, which poses enormous health and safety risks. “There are a multitude of reasons to warn against underage drinking. Known adverse effects include depression, organ damage, memory loss and impaired reactions. While adults are the ones who consume the most alcohol, many studies show that teens are most likely to binge drink. Not only does binge drinking put people in risky, unsafe and sometimes life-threatening situations, but it can also have long term health consequences,” AP Psychology teacher Brooke Sandy (formally Brant) said.

When minors consume alcohol, it is very hard on their bodies both physically and mentally.

“Becoming intoxicated impairs your judgment. Our concern is the effects it has on the function of the brain and especially the centers of the frontal lobe that manages decision making and judgemnt. Also, it affects another part of the brain that concerns your balance and coordination,” Dr. Barber said.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the general population has begun to drink at younger ages. In 2003, the average age of first use of alcohol was about 14, compared to about 17.5 in 1965.

“Research has shown that teens who drink heavily can cause damage to their prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex enables judgment, planning and processing of new memories,” Brant said. “People who start drinking at a young age are more likely to develop problems with alcohol in the future than those that do not.”

Doctors today see the effects in hospitals every day across America. According to John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, underage drinking increases the risk of physical and sexual assault, is associated with academic failure, illicit drug uses and tobacco use. “As a doctor, any individual, who is drinking underage, is placed into a situation that they cannot handle,” Dr. Barber said. “It places kids at risk for behaviors that will lead to a more detrimental lifestyle.”

With the new law, Tobacco 21, that restricts the sale of tobacco-related products within Franklin County taking effect, some students believe this will increase illegal sale of tobacco paraphernalia. Under the previous law, 18-year-olds could use tobacco products legally, but are now unable to use them. Since they may have built the habit already, the law may cause the number of fake IDs being used to increase.

“I think that by lowering the age to purchase tobacco, people under the age of 21 will start to get things from dealers instead of being able to purchase it legally in a store,” senior Cooper Durst said.

When teens reach the age of adulthood, they’re allowed to, by law, make their own decisions in every aspect but drinking and now (in certain counties) tobacco use.

“I believe that the law for tobacco use should stay the way it is now, because personally I have always believed people have a right to use and buy tobacco for themselves when they turn 18,” senior Hunter Wallace said.

According to, “turning 18 entails receiving the rights and responsibilities of adulthood including voting, smoking cigarettes, serving on juries, getting married, signing contracts, being prosecuted as adults and joining the military, which includes risking one’s life.”

“I think that anyone who was 18 or older when the law was passed should grandfathered in and be allowed to purchase tobacco products,” sophomore Jake Mattingly said.

Although students could side with the idea of lowering the drinking age, other students believe that keeping the drinking age at 21, while raising the tobacco age, is appropriate so that the age requirements for both are consistent.

“I can see why people our age would want to use tobacco products, but I think that 21 is the appropriate age because 18 year old’s are still in high school and they could influence younger students,” Durst said.

Some students are even concerned about the health risk involved with tobacco. Ohio is currently well above the national average rates of both high school smoking and adult smoking.

“I think that it’s a good thing for younger people to not be allowed to purchase tobacco, especially since it’s bad for your health,” junior Abby Bentley said.



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