Mae Flexer

State Senator

Mae Flexer

Deputy President Pro Tempore & Federal Relations Liaison

An Advocate for Us

April 10, 2019

Senators Anwar, Abrams, Flexer, Looney Advocate for Raising the Smoking Age

HARTFORD, CT – Today, State Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and State Senators Mary Daugherty Abrams (D- Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire), Saud Anwar (D-East Windsor, East Hartford, Ellington, South Windsor) and Mae Flexer (D-Killingly) joined fellow legislators and representatives from the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and Hartford Hospital in the State Capitol to support House Bill No. 7200, which would raise the statewide sale age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

Sens. Abrams and Anwar, who are the Chair and Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, joined Sen. Looney and Sen. Flexer in advocating for raising the age for access to tobacco products to protect youth in Connecticut and reduce the number of people who become addicted to nicotine.

“This good cause has found the right time,” said Sen. Looney. “It’s critical because of the toxic and tragic effects of tobacco use moving down to younger and younger people all the time. I think it’s important to recognize tobacco is always toxic in every context, circumstance and amount. There is no context in which tobacco is beneficial for anyone at any time, and its effects are cumulative, disastrous and tragic for families in this state and all over the country. With bipartisan support, involvement and commitment to the issue, I look forward to the passage of ‘Tobacco 21’ in 2019.”

“We are faced with a public health crisis,” said Sen. Abrams. “Our children are the victims of an insidious conspiracy to draw them into an addiction that can be life-altering or even life-ending, one that the Surgeon General has declared as an epidemic. Ninety-five percent of addicted smokers started before the age of 21, 46 percent of adult smokers became daily smokers before the age of 21, and each day, 350 youth become regular smokers. The primary source of tobacco products for underage smokers is their 18-to-21 peers. With House Bill No. 7200, or ‘Tobacco 21,’ we in the state legislature joined with families, teachers, school administrators and municipal leaders to curtail this epidemic and protect our children. If we fail to hold this industry accountable for its actions, the young people of our state will be the ones who pay the price. The young people of Connecticut are in harm’s way and it is imperative that we protect them by passing this legislation.”

“As a medical doctor who specializes in lung diseases, I know all too well the harmful effects that smoking tobacco can cause,” said Sen. Anwar. “We owe it to the youth of today, to protect them any way we can, and this legislation does just that. It will prevent these harmful products from falling in the hands of our youth, helping ensure the health of future generations. Its strong bipartisan support is evidence that it can truly make a difference and I look forward to seeing it pass.”

“According to the Department of Public Health, nearly one in five high school students use tobacco products at least once a month, including 3.5 percent of students smoking cigarettes and nearly 15 percent of them smoking e-cigarettes,” said Sen. Flexer. “It’s clear that we need to put a stop to this harmful practice, and raising the age of access can do just that. Many underage smokers today obtain tobacco products through their friends and colleagues at school, some of whom are older than 18. By raising the age of access, we can heavily reduce their access and better protect their health. I plan to continue working with my colleagues to ensure this legislation passes.”

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,” also known as “Tobacco 21,” was approved by the Public Health Committee on March 22. In a bipartisan effort, 53 Senators and Representatives have co-sponsored the legislation, which was endorsed in public hearing testimony by groups including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association. Eleven states and Washington, D.C. have already raised the age of access to 21.

If the bill is approved as written, its language would raise the point of sale for all tobacco products from 18 to 21, with penalties for underage sales including fines and mandated education from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Penalties for repeated violations can also lead to the suspension or revocation of a business’s license to sell tobacco products.