Connecticut to Join Growing Number of States Raising Tobacco Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 31, 2019

UPDATE: Gov. Ned Lamont signed the tobacco 21 bill into law on June 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Connecticut will soon become the latest state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. The state Senate gave final approval to the bill today – on World No Tobacco Day – and sent it to Gov. Ned Lamont, who supports the measure and has indicated he will sign it into law.

With this bold step, Connecticut will prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free. We applaud the state leaders who championed this legislation. Their efforts will help reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and further drive down tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.

In particular, we’d like to recognize the following public servants for their work on the measure:

  • Gov. Ned Lamont
  • Sen. Mae Flexer (Senate champion)
  • Sen. Mary Daugherty-Abrams
  • Senate President Martin Looney
  • Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano
  • Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff
  • Public Health Committee Chair Rep. Jonathan Steinberg
  • Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey (House champion)
  • Rep. Tom O'Dea
  • House Majority Leader Matt Ritter
  • Rep. (Dr.) William Petit, Public Health Committee Ranking Member
  • Public Health Committee Co-Chair Sen. Heather Somers

Connecticut’s action provides another major boost for the growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21. To date, 14 states – Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington – and at least 470 cities and counties have enacted Tobacco 21 laws. Measures in New York and Texas await their governors’ signature, and other states are moving similar bills.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. We also know that tobacco companies spend $9.4 billion a year – more than $1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products, much of it aimed at young people.

A tobacco age of 21 will help counter the industry’s relentless efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. A 2015 report by the National Academy of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use kills over 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Connecticut, tobacco kills 4,900 people and costs over $2 billion in health care expenses each year. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.