Lawmakers talk about raising smoking age as state gets 'F' for p - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers talk about raising smoking age as state gets 'F' for prevention

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(WFSB file photo) (WFSB file photo)

State lawmakers discussed a proposal to raise Connecticut's smoking age.

The bill, which was referred to the Committee on Public Health, would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

It would make Connecticut only the third state to do so.

April Scanlan of Manchester said she's been smoking since she was 18 years old and wishes she never tried it.

"It's hard to get around," she told Eyewitness News. "I could walk just a few blocks and I will start breathing healthy."

The committee met about the proposal at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday in Hartford.

A number of people told Eyewitness News that they liked it.

"It’s a good idea," said Koais Aohagr of the New York Deli and Market. "That way they don’t start early."

It was first introduced by Rep. Prasad Srinivasan of the 31st District of Glastonbury.

The change would go for all tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

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The American Lung Association released a report on Wednesday that gave Connecticut poor marks when it came to reducing tobacco use in the state. It went as far as to say it was putting lives at risk.

It gave the state an "F" for its tobacco prevention and control program funding and its legal smoking age.

The association said smoking is costing the state $2,038,803,314 with an adult smoking rate of 13.5 percent and a high school smoking rate of 5.6 percent.

It also attributed 4,900 deaths in the state to smoking.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in our nation," said Jeff Seyler, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. "Connecticut policymakers are simply not doing enough to protect the health of their residents, and it’s costing billions of tax payer dollars and thousands of lives every year."

The association said the state's goals should be the following:

  1. Raise the age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
  2. Achieve tax parity between cigarettes and other tobacco products.
  3. Protect funding for tobacco control for fiscal year 2018.

According to a recent survey from the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Research Cancer Center, most Americans support raising the legal smoking age.

One of the major hurdles in getting the measure to pass will be the loss of state tax revenue, according to lawmakers. With the state in a continual budget crunch, that money would be difficult to make up.

A representative from the Office of Policy and Management broke down the revenue numbers from over the past three fiscal years.

Cigarette Tax:

  • FY14: $364,655,595
  • FY15: $348,269,977
  • FY16: $361,578,691

Tobacco Products Tax:

  • FY14: $12,446,636
  • FY15: $10,883,016
  • FY16: $12,255,744

Some like Rep. Srinivasan, however, said the big picture must be viewed.

He argues that the state would save billions in health care costs.

A few people said they didn't believe such a proposal would do any good.

"Kids are going to do what they want to do regardless of the law," said Dylan Britland of Hartford.

Over the past two years, efforts to raise the smoking age in the state have failed.

Srinivasan said he's hopeful it can gain enough momentum to pass during this year's session, or at least the next.

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