Southington has joined Meriden, Wallingford and other municipalities in raising the minimum age to 21 for buying tobacco and vaping supplies. The intention in all cases is to discourage young people from taking up smoking — or vaping, which also often involves nicotine, an addictive substance.
The decision by the Town Council was not unanimous — arguments against enacting such ordinances have been made in various towns — but Southington is to be commended for having a plan to reach out to merchants, visiting businesses to notify them of the new minimum age for tobacco purchases.
The Southington Town-Wide Effort to Promote Success and the Police Department held two information sessions to let store owners know about the new rules and to provide them with age-limit signs.
Some businesses have reportedly been told by teens who formerly were able to buy tobacco that they were "grandfathered" in under the new ordinance, but that’s simply not true — the age is 21. Period.
Tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States, is actually down substantially (by roughly one-half since 2011) among middle- and high-school students. But the use of e-cigarettes (“vaping”) is increasing so wildly that U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has declared vaping an epidemic, citing statistics that show teen use of e-cigarettes increased by 78 percent in the past year.
Thus the concern. In addition to nicotine, many of the liquids used in e-cigarettes contain flavorings that medical authorities believe are designed to attract young users. For example, “Apple Pie,” “Bubble Gum,” “Peppermint” and “Cotton Candy” are just a few of the flavors offered by one company. Furthermore, the scientific community has very little information on the long-term effects of vaping on young people.
Whether ordinances such as the new one in Southington will stem the tide of vaping is unclear, because teens can simply go to a nearby town that doesn’t have such a restriction. And it seems likely that many teens are buying, or will buy, their vaping supplies online.
But Southington and other towns are also sending a message to the General Assembly, which has similar age-restriction proposals before it this session. This is not unlike the municipalities that have passed resolutions against bringing back highway tolls.
However, as with the issue of tolls, it remains to be seen whether the message will be received in Hartford.