May 31, 2019

Senator Haskell Supports Senate Vote To Raise Smoking Age To 21

HARTFORD, CT – Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) joined the Senate’s passing of legislation raising the smoking age, or age where someone can purchase tobacco products, from 18 to 21. This legislation, which Sen. Haskell co-sponsored, is part of a push to counteract the rise of smoking among young people, especially the prevalence of tobacco vaporizers or “vapes” among middle and high school students. The Surgeon General recently called this wave of addictive and dangerous behavior an “epidemic.”

“The lifelong consequences of smoking tobacco clearly damage public health, and we need to use every tool in our toolbox to prevent youth from falling into this deadly habit,” said Sen. Haskell. “With 95 percent of adult smokers starting before they turn 21, this reform is long overdue. I applaud Senator Mae Flexer for leading the way on this bill, and Senator Mary Abrams and Representative Jonathan Steinberg, who chair the Public Health Committee, for their tireless work to develop it. I’m proud to say that today, we’re thinking of the next generation of Connecticut residents.”

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 on October 1. In addition to raising the age, the bill increases penalties for tobacco sales for individuals under the age of 21 and bans smoking and e-cigarette use on school and child care center grounds, among other changes to current laws.

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. Most importantly, they face a possible revocation of their license to sell tobacco products.

This bill comes as data shows a rise in youth tobacco use, specifically of vaping products. In 2018, more than 3.6 million youth across the United States – including 20 percent of high school students and 5 percent of middle school students – reported using e-cigarettes, according to the Surgeon General. These products are often sold under the alluring guise of “fruity” flavors, and the chemicals used in those flavors pose additional health risks. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed in 2016 that vaping leads to nicotine addiction and simulated smoking behavior that derails a young person’s life.

The bill 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 or other smoking products without having to show identification.

Before the bill reached the Senate, the House approved it by a bipartisan 124-22 vote, and 53 Senators and Representatives co-sponsored the legislation. Its approval would make Connecticut the 12th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to raise the age of access to 21.