Commentary: Even though it won’t stop them…

Megan Albanese, STEPS Coalition outreach manager

There has been quite a bit of talk and controversy surrounding the new law that was put into effect on Oct. 1, 2019: Tobacco 21.  The new law raises the age to purchase any tobacco or nicotine products or devices to 21 years old.  The law also stipulates that any online purchases of tobacco or nicotine must have age verification, in-person, at the time of delivery and anyone under the age of 30 must be carded.

With support from the Southington Town Council and Southington Police Department, our community was proud to be the fourth municipality in the State of Connecticut to pass Tobacco 21 in May 2019.  Thank you to our partners and the Southington merchants for being supportive of the changes.

But why change the law…it won’t stop them from doing it…

True, raising the purchase age might not completely stop young people from gaining access to tobacco or nicotine products; however, it will hopefully make it more difficult.  Similar to when cigarette smoking was popular and on the rise, new research and dangerous facts are emerging daily with vaping and electronic cigarette use.  While there may be some misleading data that vaping is safer than smoking a traditional cigarette, we know this is not true.  Through false advertising and misleading information, Big Tobacco has been able to convince American youth that vaping is a safer alternative.

In addition, they made amazing new flavors, such as cotton candy and gummy bear, to really entice youngsters that might not have otherwise tried an e-cigarette.  With the increase of vaping and electronic cigarette use, almost 50 years’ worth of tobacco prevention has been erased according to the American Lung Association.

We know from Southington’s most recent survey data that is collected bi-annually from 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students, vaping rates are up over 140% since 2015.  According to 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data, current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased alarmingly between 2017 and 2018, with over 3.6 million kids currently using e-cigarettes in 2018.

According to the CDC:

  • As of Oct. 8, 2019, 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to CDC from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory.
  • Twenty-six deaths have been confirmed in 21 states.
  • All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.

To help protect our youth, raising the legal purchase age is the least we can do.  We need to work together to help make sure that both youth and adults are educated on the dangers of vaping and are not duped into believing the same lies Big Tobacco used 50 years ago to addict an entire generation.

Read more about Connecticut’s Tobacco 21 Law and Connecticut specific tobacco and nicotine data from the Truth Initiative (truthinitiative.org/research-resources/smoking-region/tobacco-use-connecticut-2019)

To learn more about Southington’s prevention efforts, visit southingtonsteps.org.  A free online training for merchants is also available at CTTobaccotraining.com.

Megan Albanese is the Southington STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281 or albanesem@southington.org.

Leave a Reply