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Bridgeport raises the age of sale of tobacco to 21; law includes e-cigarettes

BRIDGEPORT —  The City of Bridgeport became the second city in the state to raise the age of sale of tobacco to 21-years-old.

The vote passed 16-1.

Bryte Johnson Chairman of the MATCH Coalition, said this is good news for Bridgeport and is a step forward in protecting kids from the dangers of tobacco.

“It’s great news that Bridgeport is taking such a decisive step forward in protecting kids from the dangers of tobacco use in all forms,” said Bryte Johnson Chairman of the MATCH Coalition.  “Leaders in Bridgeport and Hartford should be commended for these actions, and our state lawmakers need to follow their lead in passing Tobacco 21 legislation across Connecticut.”

“Raising the tobacco age of sale to 21 is one of the best things cities can do to focus on reducing youth initiation and addiction to tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, Regional Director of Advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids during his testimony in front of the Council.   “While other policies work to increase cessation and reduce consumption among adults, Tobacco 21 is focused on exclusively on protecting kids and keeping all addictive tobacco products out of schools and out of their hands.”

“Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our state.  It continues to kill more people in Connecticut each year than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined,” said Michael Smith, MD, Medical Director, Primary Care Clinic Bridgeport Hospital.  “Tobacco also costs the state more than $2 billion in health care costs annually.  Tobacco 21 is a promising policy to help protect youth from this lifetime addiction to these deadly products.”

Statewide Tobacco 21 policies have been enacted in California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, and Massachusetts.

County eyes crackdown on underage tobacco sales

LINCOLN COUNTY –– With at least half of youths saying they have no problem acquiring cigarettes, local officials are considering possible licensing requirements for retailers in Lincoln County.

A proposal to curb tobacco purchases and consumption by Lincoln County youth is making the rounds among public health officials, with members of the county’s public health advisory committee strongly supporting the licensure and monitoring of local tobacco retailers here.

“One of the benefits of this is that the penalties are stronger,” said Lincoln County Public Health Advisory Committee member Faire Holliday. “What we’re seeing in other communities is that fines and the cost of a license might not be enough to make them stop selling or change their ways if they are selling to youth.”

Fear of losing a tobacco license, she added, might be motivation enough for many local tobacco retailers to comply with any licensure requirements imposed by the county.

“Especially with stores in which there is a big portion of their revenue, that could help them change their habits so at least they’re not selling to youth,” Holliday said. “Even if they are still selling products, this does have a couple of other benefits.”

According to Holliday, the rate of tobacco use among adults in Lincoln County is among the highest in the state. One in three adults in Lincoln County smoke, and Holliday found that youth smoking, while not as high, is still fairly prevalent. As of the end of November, 7.5 percent of 11th graders smoked cigarettes, 1.9 percent used a tobacco product of some kind and 9 percent smoked e-cigarettes.

“You may have also seen in the news that the use of e-cigarettes is going up sort of exponentially,” Holliday said in a December county public health advisory committee meeting. “I think it was 77 percent in the last year, so these numbers are certainly higher over the course of the year.”

Holliday also said it’s easy for teens to get cigarettes, with 52 percent of 11th graders across the country saying cigarettes are easy to acquire and 57 percent said the same of e-cigarettes. Almost three-quarters of youth who responded to the survey said they got tobacco products from a retail outlet.

“We also know youth obtain it from other youth, so really targeting in on the retail locations, if someone is buying it, can really help reduce the rate,” Holliday said.

Mixed response to previous proposals

While numbers weren’t immediately available regarding the number of local youth who buy or use tobacco products, Holliday’s efforts to target local business that sell cigarettes and similar products will crack down on the retailers selling such merchandise to local teens.

Her proposal would require local businesses to obtain a tobacco-selling license, just as liquor stores, restaurants and grocery stores are required to get a liquor license or dispensaries have to get a license to sell cannabis. The license, once awarded, would not be transferable if the business is sold.

An added benefit of requiring tobacco retailers to sell tobacco products, Holliday added, is that the county would have a way of keeping inventory of which businesses in the area are selling tobacco. The county currently does not keep such a list.

To get a tobacco license, retailers would have to fill out and submit an application and pay a fee which has yet to be determined. Holliday suggests between $150 and $400, although in other communities across the state the fee is as low as $125 annually or as high as $580 a year.

“The fee has to be enough to cover enforcement, but it can’t exceed the cost of the program or else it’s considered a tax,” Holliday said. “That’s something we’d be figuring out on the county level to determine what would be appropriate.”

According to chair of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, Doug Hunt, the county does not currently impose a fee for the sale of tobacco products. The proposal of regulating and licensing tobacco retailers came before the board of commissioners in years past, with some in the community supporting the effort and some against it.

“It has been discussed before the board of commissioners,” Hunt said during the December public health advisory committee meeting. “And as I remember, there was mixed response.”

With Lincoln County being one of the highest tobacco-consuming counties in the state, the proposition to license tobacco retailers was met with considerable support from other members of the county’s public health advisory committee.

“It would not only be advisable in my mind to have a fee that pays for some sort of monitoring program, but it also is high enough that it would somehow reduce the sales opportunities,” said committee chair Gary Lahman. “There may be small retail places that if the fee was too high, they would say, ‘Well, I don’t want to sell cigarettes.’ To me, anytime you reduce the availability of sales, you might reduce usage.””

Democratic senators calling for ban on menthol cigarettes

Democratic senators urge FDA- More than a dozen Democratic U.S. senators said the FDA needs to follow through after pleding last month to try to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also pledged to work to tighten rules governing the sale of most flavored versions of electronic cigarettes.

In a letter dated December 20, 2018 (downloadable via pdf link below) the senators urged Gottlieb to finalize the regulations quickly.

 

 

Waseca latest city to raise tobacco sales age to 21

Tuesday night, Waseca city council members voted to raise the city’s tobacco sales age to 21.

“I started smoking when I was 13 years old; I had no support back then,” Waseca Council Member Daren Arndt said Tuesday. “I stopped smoking 25 years ago, but I wish I’d never started. Tobacco 21 is all about supporting our young people and leading our community and state to a healthier tomorrow.”

The vote in Waseca Tuesday followed on the heels of the U.S. surgeon general’s calling for urgent action in response to a surge in e-cigarette use among teens.

The surgeon general reported new federal data shows e-cigarette use among American youth is rising at an alarming rate.

“Minnesota leaders should do more to combat the epidemic of youth nicotine addiction,” Molly Moilanen, vice president at ClearWay Minnesota and co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, said in a statement. “Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a common sense way to keep addictive tobacco products away from kids and prevent young people from ever starting.”

Surgeon General Warns Youth Vaping Is Now An ‘Epidemic’

“Vaping by U.S. teenagers has reached epidemic levels, threatening to hook a new generation of young people on nicotine.

That’s according to an unusual advisory issued Tuesday U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams about the the dangers of electronic cigarette use among U.S. teenagers.

“I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” Adams said at a news conference. “Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”

The surgeon general’s advisory called on parents and teachers to educate themselves about the variety of e-cigarettes and to talk with children about their dangers. Health professionals should ask about e-cigarettes when screening patients for tobacco use, the advisory said. And local authorities should use strategies, such as bans on indoor vaping and retail restrictions, to discourage vaping by young people.

The advisory was prompted by the latest statistics on vaping among youth, which found e-cigarette use among high school students has increased dramatically in the past year.

“We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the briefing. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”

Federal officials singled out JUUL electronic cigarettes for fueling the epidemic, noting that the sleek devices are by far the most popular electronic cigarettes among young people.

The company defended its products, saying it has taken steps to prevent young people from using them. For example, the company has stopped distributing some flavorings to retail stores and has taken other steps to make sure young people don’t buy the devices online.”