Push to Raise Smoking Age to 21 in Hartford

You have to be 21 years old to legally drink, but how about 21 to smoke? Community leaders are hoping Hartford will become one of the first cities to raise the smoking age.

Some doctors and lawmakers are all for it, but Hartford business owners are not happy.

"We're seeing more and more vaping," said Dr. Seth Lapuk, of Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

He says Hartford should raise the legal age for the sale and distribution of tobacco from 18 to 21.

"There is strong evidence that you do not start smoking by 18 years old, there is a 90 plus percent chance that you will never start smoking," he said.

Hartford would be the first city in Connecticut to go above the current state law requiring people to be at least 18.

"I think that's a good idea," said parent Betta Redman.

"People who want to smoke, they're going to smoke," said Jennifer Malse, of West Hartford.

Residents and business owners like Sam Rayyshi will have a chance to weigh in on the issue at a public hearing on Monday.

"It's designed to make everyone stop smoking, but they should do the whole state, not just the city of Hartford," he said.

Rayyshi thinks the proposed change is unfair to him.

"We'll lose more business. People just go out of the city to buy it," he said.

Hartford City Council member Dr. Larry Deutsch says it's a matter of public health.

"I understand it's a shame in a sense. On the other hand, if they want to sell to those who are over 21, this would not stop them from doing that," he said.

He says something needs to be done to combat the e-cigarette and vaping epidemic.

"It's targeted to young people, especially minorities and Hartford is primarily Latino and African-American, and targeting them and making them sicker," he added.

Cities and towns in other states have passed similar laws. Deutsch says the hope is if Hartford does it, the state will follow.

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