SOUTHINGTON — Residents and representatives of advocacy groups urged the Town Council Monday to raise the legal age to buy tobacco in town, which passed on an 8-1 vote.
The council is considering an ordinance that would increase the age to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21. The town’s ordinance review committee voted in favor of the change last month.
Sarah Meade, a Southington High School student and Southington Town-Wide Effort to Promote Successyouth council member, said the law could help prevent tobacco addiction.
“By raising the age of purchase … that’s going to help protect and prevent students my age, future generations and underclassmen have better health and safety,” she said.
STEPS supported the ordinance. Chris Palmieri, Town Council chairman, a middle school assistant principal and STEPS president, said that vaping has increased among students. This school year, there have been 23 high school and 16 middle school students disciplined for having tobacco products.
Bryte Johnson, government relations director for the American Cancer Society, spoke in favor of the ordinance Monday.
Ken Farbstein, a Needham, Massachusetts resident, said his was the first to adopt a town increase to the legal tobacco age. He said such efforts helped Massachusetts pass a state age increase and that a similar thing could happen in Connecticut.
The ordinance would levy fines for stores that sell tobacco to customers under 21. Repeated violations could result in the loss of a tobacco license, according to Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner.
Deputy Police Chief William Palmieri wrote the ordinance, which incorporated changes suggested by Tobacco 21, a group advocating for increasing the legal age for tobacco purchases.
Shannon Quinby, Tobacco 21 eastern region director, attended the ordinance committee’s meeting last month. She worked to pass a similar ordinance in Hartford, the first Connecticut municipality to restrict tobacco purchase to those under 21.
Town leaders declined some of Quinby's suggestions in favor of more discretion for police officers when retailers were found in violation of the law. Town leaders also opposed implementing a town license fee to sell tobacco products.