Bill could raise smoking age to 21

Connecticut residents must wait until the age of 21 to buy alcohol, and they may soon face the same wait for cigarettes.

The Connecticut General Assembly’s Public Health Committee is considering a bill that would increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 — making the state the first in the country to adopt such a standard. The legislation, lauded by anti-smoking activists but publicly criticized by at least one tobacco company, was proposed by a Connecticut teenager this week and has already received support from the co-chair of the state’s Public Health Committee.

Members of the Public Health Committee heard testimony Monday on the bill, which would make Connecticut even stricter than the four states — Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah — that already restrict tobacco sales to those over 19 years of age. The idea for such a restriction came from 17-year-old Hebron resident Jessica Adelson, who won an essay contest about how to best change the world and turned her winning idea into a bill for the General Assembly to consider.

“By increasing the age, we can stop many young people from getting their hands on cigarettes,” Adelson said at Monday’s hearing. “Why are we allowing our youth of Connecticut to start such a nasty habit at such a young and vulnerable age?”

The age increase would make it harder for most teenagers to grow addicted to cigarettes, she told lawmakers, as most teens that smoke acquire their cigarettes from friends who have just turned 18. If the minimum age to buy tobacco products were increased to 21, younger teens would not be able to turn to their 18-year-old friends for cigarettes, she said.

It remains to be seen whether such a law will be politically feasible, said State Sen. Mary Ann Handley, Democrat of Manchester and co-chair of the Public Health Committee. The committee’s leadership is meeting this morning and discuss which bills it will proceed with, Handley said, and the legislation will likely be discussed at that time.

Handley said because Monday’s public hearing lasted for about 10 hours, legislators did not discuss the bills much afterward and therefore she could not judge how most committee members felt about the proposal. At least one cigarette maker, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., has publicly criticized the legislation in media reports, saying if 18-year-olds can go off to war, they should also be able to buy cigarettes.

But Handley said she found Adelson’s testimony very convincing and would support the bill.

“I feel very persuaded that it makes a good argument to get cigarettes out of the hands of 18-year-olds so that middle teenage group doesn’t get addicted,” she said. “[Today] I’ll see whether I have any friends who agree with me.”

The Connecticut law would be a big step toward reducing tobacco addiction, said Patrick Reynolds, founder of the Foundation for a Smokefree America and the grandson of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds. Many teens turn to cigarettes as a way of declaring independence from their parents and do not realize the risks associated with addiction, he said.

Compared to the number of people who start smoking in their teens and become addicted, far fewer people would be apt to pick up smoking in their 20s, Reynolds said, making the proposed 21-year-old cutoff an effective measure in warding off addiction.

“Once they reach 21, it’s no longer an interesting vehicle for rebellion,” he said. “I just don’t know why more states haven’t done it.”

Nearly all states, including Connecticut, allow cigarette sales to those 18 or older. About 45 million Americans are regular smokers, and 90 percent of them began smoking before the age of 21, according to the American Lung Association.

—The Associated Press contributed reporting.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    thats is stupid they should just leave it the way it is its not like it hurts anybody anyways

  • Anonymous

    i think this is just totally great!

  • brittney Wilson

    this is a statement that is very remarkable. yet, that people choose to risk there lives with smoking. At any given minute there will be men, woman, CHILDREN dieing from smoking.If th smoking age is raised to 21, i am sure that there would be less smokers!

  • Anonymous

    How would raising the age to 21 to anything? The people who smoke at 18 are doing nothing wrong and now will be going to their older brothers and sisters friends and family members to go and purchase cigs for them. No matter what age it goes up to, there will always be people going to the shop for their underage friends or family members. There waisting their time!!

  • Billy Roscioli

    I agree with this totally im for the same thing and i am also writting a persassive speech about this subject i know that if the age is rasied to 21 it will cut smokers down by half i suppose if you are interested in this please email mwe so we can make a difference billyr121@aol.com

  • guest

    well i totally agree for raising the age for smokers up to 21…its a great idea and lessw people would have health problems…

  • Anonymous

    Raising the smoking age will not do anything. People have the ability to chose to smoke or not smoke. This ability to chose is what makes us Americans. Also, people will always find ways to get what they want. If this law is enacted, it will not discourage young smokers, but make them go to extremes to get what they desire.

  • Anonymous

    WTF is woung with this gov't lets focus on more important issues.

  • Britany

    this is crazy.. 18, 19, and 20 year olds who smoke are doing nothing wrong right now….and if they change the smoking age to 21, then alot of people will be selling illagaly to people under 21…it will also hurt the economy…this age thing will not cut the number of how many people smoke…they will still smoke… i know i will…and it is not to be a rebel, it is because i enjoy it, and am not addicted, i smoke maybe only a little less than a pack a week… i can understand you should limit how much a person under 21 can smoke.. but taking it away completely is like stopping cold turkey…and it just wont work…

  • stunna013

    f*** that! i say they lower the age to 16 if anything

  • m_r_blanchard

    I personally do not smoke but i have many many friends who smoke. Some are old enough to legally smoke others are not. I believe everyone should have the right to do what they want if it is not immediately hurting someone else, however, when i see my friends and family members smoking it makes me sad. I get very concerned for their safety. people who smoke are either aware of the health concerns or just don’t care and it is up to them to decide if they want to or not. on the other hand, looking at this subject from the perspective of someone who cares a lot about these people in my life, I defiantly agree that smoking, drinking, and joining the military should all be the same age. I would say that 21 is the ideal age for these things. You’re physically mature and mentally mature by this age and its very important to be these things when you make a decision as crucial as these. Yes you can always quit any of them, but often the damage has already been done. Im not trying to take away anyone’s rights or make anyone mad, i just care about the people in my life and would hate to lose them for something so unimportant.

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