SOUTHINGTON – The ordinance committee recommended raising the legal age to purchase tobacco, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21 in a unanimous vote Wednesday.
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.
The Town Council must vote on the proposal before it becomes local law.
Chris Palmieri, Town Council chairman and a middle school assistant principal, said Wednesday 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.
“I think this is getting a little bit out of control for us,” he said.
Shannon Quinby, Tobacco 21 eastern region director, attended Wednesday’s meeting. 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.
Quinby argued for a fee, saying it helped retailers take the law seriously and could raise money for enforcement efforts.
Palmieri felt the fee wasn’t needed.
“Our education and enforcement will make them take it seriously,” he said. “There’s no need to add on another $25, $50 fee for them...”
Cheryl Lounsbury, ordinance committee chairwoman, said she didn’t want to further burden retailers.
“Connecticut is a real onerous state for fees that they level on small businesses,” she said.
Police already conduct random compliance checks for alcohol and tobacco purchases, Palmieri said.
Ordinance committee members said it was likely that the state would also raise the age for tobacco purchase.
“I’d like to keep Southington on the forefront,” said committee member Tony D’Angelo.