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State Senator

Norm Needleman

Representing Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook

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Senator Needleman Supports Senate Vote To Raise Smoking Age To 21

HARTFORD, CT – Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) 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 is part of a push to counteract the increase of youth smoking, especially their use of tobacco vaporizers or “vapes,” which the Surgeon General called an “epidemic” in December 2018.

“I am proud that we are taking action to protect our young people,” said Sen. Needleman. “Statistics show that the vast majority of smokers started before they turned 21 – and they access tobacco products through their friends, classmates and colleagues at school. By increasing the age of access for tobacco products, we cut off their ability to use tobacco products and stop them from becoming addicted to them at a young age. I applaud Senator Mae Flexer, Senator Mary Abrams, Representative Jonathan Steinberg and everyone else who had a hand in crafting this legislation.”

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 increasing the age of access, 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. They also face a possible revocation of their license to sell tobacco products.

This bill comes as data shows an increase in youth and underage 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. Vaping products also have led to concerns about public health, as they utilize chemicals that are seen as unsafe. They are also often sold with “sweet” flavors, and the chemicals used in those flavors pose additional health risks. The Centers for Disease Control said in 2016 that vaping flavors can facilitate nicotine addiction and simulated smoking behavior.

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 vapes or other smoking products without having to show identification or prove they’re of age.

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.

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