‘Kick Butts Day’ urges tobacco legislation

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — For ‘Kick Butts Day’ on Wednesday, some of Connecticut’s most prominent public health advocates called on state lawmakers to pass legislation that will help young people from ever getting addicted.

On Kick Butts Day, kids encourage their peers to be tobacco-free, reject tobacco companies’ devious marketing, and urge elected officials to help make the next generation tobacco-free.

Leaders from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association/Stroke Association, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network are calling for swift passage of HB5384, which would raise the sale age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 in the state. The bill was recently passed out of the Public Health Committee.

The vast majority of adult smokers—95%—start smoking before they turn 21. Raising the age to 21, will help prevent high school kids from buying and distributing cigarettes and other tobacco products. Preventing teens from starting is critical.

“The logic here is simple, the harder we can make it for young people to start using tobacco, the better it is for their health and the overall public health system,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy, Northeast Region for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We are hopeful that this bill will continue to make progress and become law this session so we can save more lives and help more kids.”

More than 175 individual municipalities across the Northeast (220 nationwide) have adopted “Tobacco 21” regulations in the past several years, as well as the states of California and Hawaii. Other states in the region, including New York and Massachusetts, are also considering similar legislation this session.

“Connecticut lawmakers need to seriously consider this piece of common sense legislation,” said Bryte Johnson, Connecticut Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We know kids who start using tobacco products at a young age are more likely to become addicted and turn into long term smokers, with long term health effects. We’ve got to do everything we can to break that cycle and this legislation is a step forward in doing that.”

Despite aggressive efforts to curb tobacco use by young people in the state, Connecticut still faces a challenge, with more than 10% of youth reportedly smoking. Additionally, estimates show that of Connecticut kids living today-56,000 will eventually die from smoking-related illnesses.

“On Kick Butts Day, we rededicate ourselves to helping smokers quit their addiction while continuing the work to stop the next generation from taking up this deadly habit to begin with. If our legislators in Hartford want to commit to helping Connecticut residents beat tobacco once and for all, we must prevent another generation of kids from starting a deadly addiction. We call on the Senate and House to pass Tobacco 21 legislation and protect the health of our kids,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO, American Lung Association of the Northeast.

“We’ve got to do better to protect our kids from the dangers of tobacco use, “said Jim Williams, Connecticut Government Relations Director, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. “While there’s not one solution to stopping every kid from starting smoking, HB5384 promises to make getting cigarettes harder for those younger than 21. Kick Butts Day is a good opportunity to remind lawmakers of the importance of getting this bill done this session.”

HB5384 now awaits a vote by the full House of Representatives.

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