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Connecticut Primed to Become 15th State in Nation to Raise the Tobacco Buying Age to 21

New law includes all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and aims to save lives and millions in healthcare costs

(May 31, 2019) -

For more information please contact:

Jennifer Solomon
[email protected]
(516) 680-8927

The Connecticut State Senate today voted in favor (33-3) of legislation to raise the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. The law, known as Tobacco 21, was approved on May 16, 2019, with bipartisan support in the Assembly (124:22) and is expected to be signed by Governor Ned Lamont.  It is expected to decrease tobacco use by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers are adults, with smoking-related deaths also expected to decrease by 10 percent.   

Praising the move as an important statewide public health policy, and urging Governor Lamont to sign the bill into law swiftly, American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer shared that Tobacco 21 laws prevent and reduce tobacco use, address the youth vaping epidemic and save lives.  

“With our nation facing a youth e-cigarette epidemic, Tobacco 21 laws are now more important than ever. Today, the State of Connecticut took a significant step in protecting the health and wellness of its residents – and we are proud to congratulate the Connecticut legislature for their bold leadership to protect young people from a dangerous addiction to tobacco products,” Wimmer said. “We already know that adolescents and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction, making this legislation an important, lifesaving measure. We are eager to see Governor Lamont sign this bill into law in Connecticut, and to continue our work in fighting for strong Tobacco 21 laws across the nation that will prevent our kids from becoming the next generation of Americans hooked on a deadly and addictive product.”

In Connecticut, a grassroots effort led by health advocates, parents, teachers, community leaders and student activists successfully passed legislation in local municipalities including Hartford, Bridgeport, New London, Milford and Meriden, resulting in a growing call for statewide legislation. The new law was introduced this session, following a December 2018 announcement by the U.S. Surgeon General calling youth e-cigarette use an epidemic. According the announcement, e-cigarette use increased by a staggering 78 percent among high school students from 2017 to 2018. 

Ruth Canovi, Director of Advocacy in Connecticut for the American Lung Association said, “According to the American Lung Association’s 2019 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report, in Connecticut our high school tobacco use rates remain at 17.9 percent. Tobacco 21 is a policy that has been proven to prevent tobacco addiction among our younger generations. Raising the age of sale simply reduces the consumption, availability and visibility of these products to our young people – and sends a clear message to parents and guardians that all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, are dangerous and have significant health impacts.”

Canovi continued, “There was a significant grassroots movement that successfully advocated for this policy on the local level, and helped amplify the need for a statewide policy.  We are grateful for the persistence of the Public Health Committee leadership as well key leaders within the General Assembly and we look forward to the official signing of the law by Governor Lamont.”

Nearly 95 percent of adult smokers report trying their first cigarette before the age of 21. The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found 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 #1 cancer killer. 

Other statewide Tobacco 21 policies have been enacted in Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Utah and Washington, D.C., raising the retail sales age of tobacco products to 21. Legislatures in New York and Texas have passed similar legislation, and the next to be signed will be the 15th state in the nation to join the Tobacco 21 movement.

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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