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Governor Lamont Announces Enactment of Law Raising the Age to Purchase Tobacco Products to 21

Report by Paula Antolini, October 1, 2019, 1:27PM EDT

Governor Ned Lamont

State Set to Lose About $6.3M in Annual Revenue, Governor Says Health of Young People Takes Priority

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont is reminding Connecticut residents that a new law he championed and signed earlier this year raising the age to legally purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 took effect on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. The governor is encouraging retail store owners and operators to educate their employees on the implementation of the new law, advising that it will be strictly enforced.

The administration estimates that the state is set to lose about $6.3 million in annual tax revenue due to the implementation of the law, however Governor Lamont feels that the health of young people needs to take priority. The biennial state budget that was adopted in June included adjustments to prepare for the revenue loss.

“Many decades ago when most of our laws surrounding tobacco products were written, the medical evidence on the impact the substance has, particularly on young people and the ongoing development of their brains, did not exist. Continuing the enforcement of outdated laws just because that’s the way it’s always been is not a good enough reason for why they should continue to reflect outdated perceptions,” Governor Lamont said. “With the rising use of e-cigarettes and vaping products among young people, we are seeing a growing public health crisis and it’s time that we addressed it.”

Section 12-330a of the Connecticut General Statutes defines the term tobacco products to include cigars, cheroots, stogies, periques, granulated, plug cut, crimp cut, ready rubbed and other smoking tobacco, snuff tobacco products, cavendish, plug and twist tobacco, fine cut and other chewing tobaccos, shorts, refuse scraps, clippings, cuttings and sweepings of tobacco and all other kinds and forms of tobacco, prepared in such manner as to be suitable for chewing or smoking in a pipe or otherwise or for both chewing and smoking.

Over the last several years, eighteen states have adopted laws raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21. In addition to Connecticut, they include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Nearly 500 municipalities throughout the country have also adopted similar local ordinances.

New law received strong support from legislators and public health advocates

The law, Public Act 19-13, was approved 124-22 in the House of Representatives and 33-3 in the State Senate, with only Republicans voting in opposition.

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said, “Adolescent brains are particularly vulnerable to damage from nicotine addiction. We all know that smoking leads to various tobacco-related illnesses including lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. We are also now seeing growing evidence of the health dangers associated with vaping and e-cigarettes. Considering that nearly nine out of ten smokers start by the time they turn 18, this legislation will help reduce levels of nicotine dependence and over time, decrease the number of tobacco related deaths across our state.”

State Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D-Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire) said, “As senate chair of the Public Health Committee, I am proud to have played a role in passing Tobacco 21. This legislation takes significant steps in removing youth access to tobacco products. Most habitual smokers start smoking at a young age. By increasing the age of access of tobacco, we will prevent older students from supplying tobacco products to their younger peers, and reduce the number of future lifelong smokers. As legislators, we have no greater responsibility than protecting the safety of young people in the state. This legislation will provide Connecticut’s youth a better opportunity for a healthy future.”

State Senator Mae Flexer (D-Killingly) said, “The vast majority, over 90 percent, of smokers pick up the habit before the age of 21. After years of seeing steep declines of smoking rates, use of tobacco and nicotine products have been skyrocketing. This new law is critical to reversing that trend. Tobacco related illnesses are still the number one cause of preventable death in our state. Thanks to the clear and distinctive leadership of Governor Lamont and a bipartisan coalition of legislators, we are proactively addressing this public health crisis, ensuring that younger children do not become exposed to or addicted to nicotine. I am thrilled that Tobacco 21 is now the law in Connecticut.”

State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D-Fairfield) said, “It was an amazing collaborative effort this year to pass Tobacco 21. We have more work to do, especially on vaping, but together we can continue to make great strides.”

Department of Public Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell said, “We know adolescent brains are particularly vulnerable to nicotine and nicotine addiction. This new law will help support the Department of Public Health’s ongoing effort to reduce nicotine and tobacco usage, especially among youth.”

Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said, “Tobacco 21 is a landmark change in how we will help to protect our youngest citizens from the dangers of tobacco and vaping. With this new legislation, we are not only increasing the age to purchase tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21, which will help reduce access to high school students, but we are also providing new tools for our retail partners to ensure compliance with the law.”

Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Scott D. Jackson said, “Tobacco 21 legislation strengthens Connecticut’s position as a leader on reducing tobacco, cigarette, and e-cigarette use by further restricting access to these products in the retail market. As a father of two, I am alarmed at the prevalence of tobacco and nicotine use in young people, and I applaud Governor Lamont and the legislature for taking decisive action. The DRS looks forward to working with our fellow agencies to ensure the promise of Tobacco 21 is realized.”

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