Connecticut Could Become 6th State to Raise Tobacco Age to 21

The push to raise the age for purchasing tobacco in Connecticut to 21 from 18 is coming from young people.

More than a dozen sixth graders from Scotland, Connecticut, visited the state capitol to tell lawmakers they don’t think anyone should be able to purchase tobacco until they turn 21.

Olivia Martinez Chavez spoke for the class and says they think it has to do with maturity and brain development.

"When you’re 18 your brain is still developing and 21 you can gamble and drink, so you should be able to smoke, too, at that age," she said.

Connecticut would join a handful of other states that limit tobacco sales to those over the age of 21. Currently, California, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine and New Jersey set their ages at 21, with New Jersey and Maine putting it into effect last year.

Sen. Mae Flexer, one of the Democrats sponsoring the bill, said she thinks if the state can stop early tobacco use, then it could be better for health outcomes later.

"Studies show that people who choose to start smoking start smoking before the age of 21 so this is a critical step in preventing smoking throughout our state," Flexer said.

The tobacco industry did not provide any testimony in opposition to the bill, whereas numerous healthcare providers and those who represent them voiced their support for raising the age to 21. Those groups included the Connecticut Hospital Association, the American Heart Association and the Connecticut Medical Society.

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