May 16, 2019

Senator Abrams Advocates for ‘Tobacco 21’ With Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services as House Passes Legislation


State Senator Mary Abrams advocates for increasing the age of access for tobacco products to 21 Thursday at the State Capitol.

HARTFORD, CT – On the same day the House passed it, and during National Prevention Week, State Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D-Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire) advocated today in favour of legislation that would increase the age of access for tobacco products, commonly known as “Tobacco 21.”

At the DHMAS Health and Wellness Fair at the State Capitol, Sen. Abrams, who is Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee, joined State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford) and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon to say increasing the smoking age to 21 would play an important role in protecting youth health by preventing addiction. Sen. Abrams commended her Public Health Committee co-chair Representative Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), who could not speak Thursday as he was discussing the legislation on the House floor.

“We have 95 percent of addicted smokers starting before the age of 21,” said Sen. Abrams. “We know students have access to cigarette and tobacco products through 18-to-21-year-olds. We know there are 350 youth who become regular smokers every day. And we know that our youth have been targeted by tobacco companies to become their next customers. I have seen the life-long health effects, and life-ending effects, that tobacco products bring. We know that these products are related to cancer, heart disease and other ailments. And we have to do whatever we can to become a barrier between our children and the people who want to target them. That is what Tobacco 21 is about. This issue rises above politics – it is about the health and safety of our children.”

“It takes all of us working together,” said Commissioner Delphin-Rittmon. “The use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products more than doubled in Connecticut between 2015 and 2017. The goal of the “Tobacco 21” initiative is to get tobacco products out of schools and prevent new life-long smokers becoming addicted to nicotine. By raising the buying age to 21, tobacco and e-cigarettes will be less available to students in our schools. I ask that we all make an effort to do whatever we can to make a healthier tomorrow in Connecticut.”

“I smoked for 15 years until I finally quit a few years ago,” said Rep. Scanlon, who said he started smoking cigarettes at the age of 16, while he was still in high school. “No one was talking about that then, but now we know that’s too dangerous. We have to fight every single day to fight stigma in our state.”

House Bill No. 7200, “An Act Prohibiting the Sale of Cigarettes, Tobacco Products, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Vapor Products to Persons Under Age Twenty-One,” passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 124-22 Thursday. The bill’s language raises the point of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21, with penalties ranging from fines to mandated education and suspension of business licenses for violators. In a show of bipartisan support, 53 Senators and Representatives have co-sponsored the legislation. If it is made law, Connecticut would become the twelfth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to raise the age of access to 21.