WALLINGFORD — The Town Council ordinance committee on Tuesday night decided to postpone voting on a proposal to raise the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.
Councilor Craig Fishbein suggested several changes to the draft ordinance, and councilors wanted another meeting to discuss revisions. No Democratic councilors were present at Tuesday’s meeting.
Wallingford would be among the first Connecticut municipalities to ban selling tobacco products to anyone under age 21. Hartford became the first in October 2018. Bridgeport passed a similar ordinance on Jan. 21, and South Windsor followed on Monday.
State legislators have introduced several bills this session addressing vaping and e-cigarette use among minors, including raising the minimum purchasing age on tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The town health department would provide retailers with signs that would be posted at points of sale and on tobacco product displays.
The police department would be authorized to enforce the ordinance. Penalties for sale violations would start with a written warning, and then progress to fines.
The idea for raising the minimum age was introduced during the Town Council's regular meeting on in October 2018, when Coalition for a Better Wallingford presented information on youth vaping, focused on the Juul brand of vaporizer, which offers high nicotine capacity and flavored pods and has been accused by health advocates of targeting teens.
Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said in a statement that the company’s “intent was never to have youth use Juul products.”
“We strongly support raising the minimum purchase age for cigarettes, tobacco and vaping products to 21,” Kwong said.
Martin Pazzani, co-owner of Silver City Vapors, said the ordinance would punish people who want to quit smoking through using e-cigarettes.
Craig Turner, town youth and social services director, said the ordinance is aimed at reducing accessibility and availability of tobacco products, citing the change in law in the early 1980s to raise the drinking age, due to car accidents and deaths involving alcohol use.
"We know that this is an epidemic of use," Turner said.