Christine Cohen

State Senator

Christine Cohen

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Listening, Advocating & Getting Results

October 1, 2019

As Age of Access for Tobacco Increases to 21, Sen. Cohen Applauds New Law That Will Protect Youth From Dangers of Smoking

HARTFORD, CT – Today, state Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) joined numerous legislators, including Governor Ned Lamont, to applaud a new state law that increases the age of access for tobacco and smoking products from 18 to 21. The “Tobacco 21” law, which goes into effect today, October 1, is the result of an effort to reduce the harm tobacco can cause among the general public.

“E-cigarettes have become the leading form of tobacco use among minors, and these harmful products pose numerous health risks, both known and unknown,” said Sen. Cohen. “I am thrilled we are taking proactive steps to protect our children from these potentially deadly items. Raising the age to 21 is an effective method to ensure high school aged individuals are not able to easily have access to e-cigarettes. Additionally, increasing penalties for distributing this product to our youth will serve as a stronger deterrent and make individuals think twice before putting e-cigarettes in the hands of minors.

House Bill No. 7200, commonly referred to as “Tobacco 21,” raises the legal purchase age of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping products and other tobacco products from 18 to 21, effective today. In addition to increasing the age of access, the bill increases penalties for tobacco sales to individuals under the age of 21 and bans smoking and e-cigarette use on school and child care center grounds, among other changes.

Businesses found to sell tobacco products to underage patrons will see fines increased from $200 to $300 for first offenses, from $350 to $750 for second offenses, and from $500 to $1,000 for further offenses. They also face a possible revocation of their license to sell tobacco products.

This comes as data shows an increase in youth and underage tobacco use, specifically of vaping products. In recent weeks, states reported seeing increased numbers of lung diseases and lung damage directly related to vaping products. While youth tobacco use is down, just under 5 million middle and high school students used tobacco in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 20 percent of high school students and 5 percent of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018, according to the Surgeon General.

The law also closes a significant loophole that will prevent youth access to tobacco products, as it requires online e-cigarette sellers to obtain the signature of someone 21 or older when delivering a package. This prevents underage shoppers from obtaining vapes or other smoking products without having to show identification or prove they’re of age.

Today, Connecticut becomes the 12th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to raise the age of access to 21.