Congratulations to the Hartford City Council on passing an ordinance that raises the age of sale of tobacco products to 21. The ordinance, which was introduced by Councilman Larry Deutsch, makes Hartford the first city in the State of Connecticut to pass this policy.
The ordinance, which includes the purchase of electronic cigarettes, was passed just weeks after an announcement from the State Department of Public Health that the number of high school students using electronic cigarettes doubled in just two years.
According to their report, 14.7 percent of high school students reported current use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), compared to 7.2 percent in 2015. The survey found one in 10 ninth graders and over one in five 12th graders currently use ENDS. That report mirror’s the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control Report which concluded that 14 percent of high school students in the state of Connecticut are using tobacco.
We also know that nearly 95 percent of adult smokers report trying their first cigarette before the age of 21 – and that this policy can save lives.
In fact, according to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer – the nation’s leading cancer killer.
Some of those lives are Connecticut’s children — and we applaud Hartford for taking clear and decisive steps to safeguard their future.
The bottom line is that tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, and the leadership in Hartford should be an example for other local municipalities and the state. As of today, California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, and Massachusetts have led the way on tobacco 21, but with Hartford out in front, Connecticut should be next.
Ruth Canovi is Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Connecticut.