Renewed push to raise tobacco purchasing age to 21 in Connecticut

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HARTFORD -- Multiple pieces of legislation passed through the Public Health Committee at the State Capitol Wednesday morning.

Among them, a renewed push to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco in the state from 18 to 21 years old as well as categorizing "vaping" products into the same class as tobacco products, thus making them eligible for special tobacco taxes.

"What we're concerned about is underage smoking," said State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, MD, a republican from Glastonbury. "Just like we do for alcohol use, increase it 21. Keep it on par with that then we hope the accessibility, and availability of tobacco and related products will be significantly reduced."

Another bill passed would required federal funding for tobacco cessation to actually go toward those programs rather than into the state's general fund.

The proposals are causing controversy with local tobacco and vape shops who say the proposed regulations could put more burden on customers and small businesses.

"If they pass on this real high tax that they're looking at, customers will resort back to smoking," said Al Barone, owner of Puffin Vapor & Leaf in Vernon where vaping is driving business. "It's going to be a fight, we're not just going to give it up."

The bills will continue on in the legislative process and will be scheduled for public hearings.