Advocates filled the State Capitol on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to raise the smoking age.
More than 100 cancer survivors, doctors, nurses, and families packed the room.
They want the age to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, bumped from 18 to 21. Several cities and towns have already done it, most recently Milford.
“We are the one this policy impacts,” said Newington Teenager, Evelyn Levesque who volunteers with the American Cancer Society. She says she has a friend who’s older sister bought her an e-cigarette as a graduation gift.
“At 15, she is now addicted to a smoking replacement. She ruined her life and her sister’s life and that’s not ok,” said Levesque.
They say they can save lives and healthcare dollars .
Roughly 95% of adult smokers light up before the age of 21. By raising the age, supporters believe less and less young people will have access to these products.
Research shows tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable disease and death, including up to one third of all cancers.
House Bill 7200 would raise the age from 18 to 21 for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, statewide.
So, what does the other side say? National Critics of this have said it’s pointless to raise the age because research shows 80% of smokers start before the age of 18. So, they believe even now the age limit isn’t effective.
They also worry it could hurt retailers who sell these products.
They also argue it’s not the government’s role to do this and it takes away an individual’s right to choose.
Here, at the State Capitol the bill has wide bipartisan support. Republicans and democrats already voted it through the public health committee.
“If we fail to hold this industry accountable for its actions. The young people of this state will pay the price,” said State Sen. Mary Abrams, 13th State Senate District (D).
“We are the ones the tobacco industry views as the replacement smokers, but I refuse to be a replacement smoker,” said Levesque.
The House could vote on it in the next month.