Hartford is Connecticut’s first city to adopt an ordinance that’ll stop vendors from selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old.
City Council members raised the legal age from 18 to 21 on Monday.
Hartford Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez said that the ordinance wasn’t enacted to punish youth nicotine users. It’s meant to limit their exposure to tobacco.
“For those who are worrying out there ‘Oh man, now there’s something else that the Hartford Police Department has to be out on the lookout to start issuing tickets or x,y, [z],’ That’s not what it’s about,” Bermudez said. “The intention is not to criminalize young people. The intention is to make sure that we have a safer place and a healthier place for our youth.”
What’s most alarming to Bermudez is that tobacco products are available in over 200 locations citywide and that kids are using them everywhere -- even in schools.
Vaping among high schoolers doubled between 2015 and 2017, according to a recent survey carried out by the state.
The Hartford measure would also prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 21.
“That could potentially have a major impact because one of the major sources for these products for the younger youth, the 15-to-17-year-olds, are youth that are able to purchase, at this point legally, the 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds. That is the major source of these products for the younger youth,” said Dr. Mehul Dalal, who represents the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Karen Kakley, the director of development for Our Piece of the Pie, works with Hartford area youth. It’s an organization that helps 14-24 year olds make the right choices for their future, which Kakley says includes advocating against tobacco use.
“So there’s two significant pointers or factors for us -- one is your health, your physical health -- and then there’s also the financial impact,” Kakley said. “If you’re bringing home $1,000 to $1,200 per month, do you want to spend one-third of your resources on a habit?”
Inspectors from Hartford’s Health and Human Services Department will enforce the ordinance, which goes into effect 180 days from the initial date of passage.