SOUTHINGTON - STEPS Coalition Board President Chris Palmieri plans to introduce a proposal that would raise the legal age for tobacco, nicotine and vaping product use from 18 to 21.
Palmieri is also chairman of the Town Council.
The STEPS Coalition, which aims to keep youths healthy through education, policy change and reducing access to addictive substances, voted to move forward with the plan at its Jan. 7 meeting.
Palmieri said STEPS will present its proposal to the Ordinance Committee at its Feb. 20 meeting before taking it to the council. He said a public hearing will be held on this proposed ordinance change.
Palmieri said the STEPS Coalition Advisory Board began a conversation on this issue in November of last year. He said he discussed the positives and negatives of the plan and sought feedback from community stakeholders.
“I initiated this proposal after I’d seen other towns doing it,” said Palmieri. “Hartford was the first city to propose the ordinance. To me, this is an extra precaution to ensure that kids aren’t getting access to tobacco-related products and the new trend of vaping. In my role as assistant principal at DePaolo Middle School, I have seen middle school-aged kids vaping. There’s nowhere that sells vapes to middle school kids; they’re getting them through their older siblings and their friends.”
Palmieri said national data indicates that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21.
“The ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period, when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use,” he said. “The health hazards associated with the use of tobacco, nicotine and vaping product are clearly documented, however, the ability for our youth to purchase these products is completely unacceptable, from both a health and physical development perspective.”
Palmieri said the ordinance change would also align tobacco, nicotine and vaping restrictions with similar restrictions on alcohol products.
“As a member of Southington’s prevention coalition, I am proud to support this systemic change that will benefit our youth by reducing their ability to be in possession of harmful substances,” he said. “If approved, this ordinance will send a clear message that our community stands united in supporting healthy decisions and protecting our youth.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.