WALLINGFORD — Following the lead of other towns, the Town Council is considering raising the minimum legal age to 21 to buy e-cigarettes at local businesses.
The council’s ordinance committee on Thursday is expected to continue a discussion on raising the age restriction, which began in November.
Janis M. Small, town corporation counsel, said Wednesday that a draft ordinance may be ready by the committee’s February meeting.
Small said ordinance language will include the prohibition on selling e-cigarettes to anyone under age 21, what signage would be required in retail stores and what town department would be required to conduct enforcement and issue penalties.
Wallingford would be among the first municipalities to pass such an ordinance.
Hartford became the first state municipality to ban selling tobacco products, including vaping devices, to anyone under age 21 in October.
Bloomfield almost became the second later that month, but its town council referred the proposal to the subcommittee level.
East Hartford had on its town council agenda an ordinance to raise the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 for Wednesday.
The idea for a local ordinance was introduced during the Town Council’s regular meeting on Oct. 9, when Coalition for a Better Wallingford presented information on youth vaping, focused on the Juul brand of vaporizer.
Juul, which offers high nicotine capacity and sweet-flavored pods, has been targeted by health advocates as targeting teens through social media.
In November, Juul Labs announced it was ending the sale of several of its flavored pods, including fruit, mango and crème and shuttering its social media accounts that promoted those products.
At that meeting, Councilor Jason Zandri requested that the town consider adopting an ordinance to raise the minimum age to 21. Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni followed up with a request to Small to review Hartford’s ordinance, according to meeting minutes.
Representatives from Wallingford Tobacco, Puffy City and Cumberland Farms, which all sell e-cigarettes, declined to comment.
One business owner anticipated the change.
“We expect that they were going to do it on a state level anyway,” said Tom Leary, owner of Silver City Vapors, 10 Willard Ave.
Leary, who co-owns the shop with his wife, Pam, said Wednesday that his store caters to adults, and that only about 5 percent of business comes from customers ages 18-20.
He said that e-cigarettes initially were a smoking cessation product, since the user can control the amount of nicotine to the milligram.
“Juul came out and that’s what ruined the whole thing,” he said. “In this store, our most popular nicotine level is 3 milligrams. When Juul came out, that came out with 50 milligrams of nicotine.”
That’s as much nicotine as an average pack of cigarettes.
“It’s a lot more powerful nicotine and that’s what the kids have gotten their hands on,” Leary said.
Joe Cannatelli, who is about to turn 20, said Wednesday that raising the minimum age “definitely has positive implications.”
Cannatelli, of Wallingford, was buying Juul pods at Wallingford Tobacco.
“I started smoking cigarettes before I was 18,” he said. “When you’re 18, you don’t really know how much of a hold nicotine can really have on you… A lot of (teens use tobacco) to be cool, and they don’t understand it."
Cannatelli attends college in Tampa, Florida, so the local ban won’t have a big effect on him personally.