The town of Southington recently passed an ordinance that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, and since then, several other Connecticut communities have followed suit. With such a big change, the Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) along with the Southington Police Department and the health district have partnered to provide informational sessions for tobacco-selling businesses in town.
The next informational session will be on April 24, at 6 p.m., in the police station conference room. Any merchants who sell tobacco are encouraged to come and receive details on the new ordinance, along with new signage and a counter mat. The health department will also issue new permits.
“Tobacco sales are an every-day occurrence for those businesses, so we want to make sure we all take the new ordinance very seriously,” said STEPS youth prevention coordinator Kelly Leppard. “This is a partnership between three town organizations in order to support our business community.”
STEPS and the SPD do compliance checks on tobacco-selling merchants regularly during the year. By providing information and support early in the process, they hope businesses can be successful in complying with the new ordinance.
“We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re left to figure this out on their own,” said Leppard.
Merchants who are unable to attend the informational session will be visited in person and provided with information. Mailings will also go out to merchants.
“We are using these sessions as a platform for education and partnering with the business community on the initiative,” said SPD deputy chief Bill Palmieri. “We hope to increase stakeholders’ awareness so they can be ambassadors of the new ordinance.”
Palmieri said the change is the “right thing to do,” and will be good for the community in preventing youth from accessing tobacco products. There are an estimated 52 merchants in town that currently sell tobacco products.
The first of the sessions was held on April 11.
“We want to approach this from a partnership perspective, because the goal is to have everyone involved to understand the new ordinance, and get behind it,” said Palmieri. “Ultimately, if we don’t have to write a ticket at all, then the businesses are successful, and we as a town are successful.”
Since the town passed the ordinance, the communities of Trumbull, Milford and Wallingford have passed similar ordinances. Those communities join Hartford, South Windsor and Bridgeport, who had already passed the Tobacco 21 ordinance. Officials from Trumbull attended the April 11 informational session to see how Southington was going about rolling out the new law.
“We are hopeful that Tobacco 21 will eventually pass state wide,” said Leppard. “For now, we are doing what we can to protect our youth in Southington, and we hope our neighbors will do the same.”
The Southington Town Council passed the ordinance on March 11, and it went into effect on March 31, 20 days after the vote.
For more information, email SouthingtonSTEPS@gmail.com