MERIDEN — Gov. Ned Lamont joined local and state officials at Platt High School Tuesday morning to speak about a new law raising the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21.
The “Tobacco 21” statute took effect Tuesday, raising the purchase age for cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping products and other tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The bill also increases penalties for tobacco sales to those under 21 and bans smoking and e-cigarette use on school grounds.
Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati spoke at the event, which included students from both city high schools along with legislators and local officials. Scarpati noted that a local ordinance went into effect in April that had the same restrictions as the state law.
“As we’ve realized this was a severe issue in our community... we’ve taken steps to make sure we are making a healthier community,” Scarpati said about the local ordinance.
State Sen. Mary Abrams, D- Meriden, helped push for the new state law. Abrams said if someone gets addicted to tobacco products at a young age, they have a harder time quitting.
“Ninety-five percent of addicted smokers start before the age of 21,” she said.
Public Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell provided 2017 and 2018 data gathered by the behavioral risk factor surveillance survey system. Vaping among 18- to 24-year-olds rose from 8.7% in 2017, to 18.1% in 2018.
Lamont noted that Connecticut is one of the first states in the country to enact this type of legislation
“You’re not invincible,” Lamont said to the students in attendance. “... the most important thing you can do is look out for each other.”
Lamont said the law sends a message and added the long-term effects of vaping are not fully known.
Meriden police Sgt. Darrin McKay said because the local ordinance has been in effect for a few months, nothing significant changes for police with the new state law.
“Clearly everyone knows the effects smoking has on health,” McKay said. “Anything we can do to protect kids as long as we can, that’s a good move.”
McKay said the department, in conjunction with the state, does compliance checks at local businesses throughout the year.