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Proposed legislation gains momentum, would raise legal age to buy tobacco in Connecticut

HARTFORD --  Legislation raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 passed through Connecticut’s Public Health Committee on Monday.

The legislation has bi-partisan support and includes vaping products, which are popular amongst a younger crowd.

Fatdaddy Vapors in Wethersfield, said teenagers and young adults make up roughly half its clientele.

“I just hope it doesn’t affect business,” said manager Michael Lehoty, reacting to the proposed legislation.

Michael Bohea, the vape manager at Songbirds Vape and Smoke in West Hartford, said he’s torn on the legislation, but believes it will help deter a younger crowd and does not think teens should be using vaping products.

“If you can go to war, you should be able to use whatever product you want,” said Bohea. “But I do understand where people want to bring it to 21 just to keep it out of the hands of minors, which I am completely for.”

According to the American Heart Association, 1,300 Connecticut kids pick up smoking every year.

“Kids who start vaping are seven times more likely to become smokers,” said Jim Williams, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association.

Williams said five other states and hundreds of municipalities have raised the legal age to purchase tobacco, but notes that Connecticut is the first state to specifically include vaping in its verbiage.

“We’ve spoken to a number of middle school and high school kids who have told us that vaping occurs in the schools, in the bathrooms,” said Williams.

“It even occurs in the classrooms.”

The legislation would also fine businesses for selling to underage customers, and would grandfather in anyone younger than 21 but older than 18 as of October 1, 2018.

On Wednesday, the American Heart Association along with the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Connecticut, will gather with kids from around the state for a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to support raising the legal tobacco sales age.

The press conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.