Photo of Senator Looney.

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

Representing New Haven, Hamden & North Haven

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Senator Looney Praises Senate Vote To Raise Smoking Age To 21

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) celebrated the Senate’s passage 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 dangerous increase in youth smoking, especially youth use of tobacco vaporizers or “vapes,” which the Surgeon General called an “epidemic” in December 2018.

“This good cause has found the right time,” said Senator 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. I’m thrilled that this legislation passed with bipartisan involvement and support.”

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, additionally strengthening other laws. In addition to raising 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 have sold 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.

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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