While the state legislature moves slowly to initiate a state-wide ban on tobacco sales for those under the age of 21, several communities like Southington have taken the lead and voted to prohibit sales of any tobacco, vapor and nicotine sales to minors.
In a unanimous vote on March 11, the Town Council agreed with overwhelming statistics that show 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before age 21 and that evidence claims those who begin smoking at an early age are likely to develop a severe addition to nicotine.
In a smart move to soften the blow to merchants, the town sponsored a special hearing several weeks ago regarding the regulation, fines and adoption of special signs.
Obviously, raising the age from 18 to 21 is difficult to argue with since vaping among teens has become a national problem. Vaping has promoted itself on the theory that it is not as addictive as tobacco, and appears to be a trendy and cool thing.
The town has aggressively laid out a lengthy list of why tobacco is bad and has well defined what the word “selling” means since the new ordinance applies to not only the owner but also to the employees.
In addition, like a bar that faces the challenge of fake identifications, retail outlets that sell cigarettes, cigars and vaping items cannot escape fines for ineffective verification of fake ID’s. That responsibility is now facing every gas station, grocery store large and small and every tobacco shop.
The ordinance review also allows any citizen to register a complaint with the local police about lack of enforcement. Violators will face an infraction ticket by police, a warning ticket and then license suspension, revocation, denial or non-renewal.
OK, we get it. But those underage or currently 18 year-olds, appear to frequent busy gas stations for tobacco purchases. Owners and their employees who work part-time will have a serious task of saying “no” especially to fellow young people who cannot or want to show any ID.
One teenager said he knew of a better way to get tobacco products. “Get someone to go down south or just another town before the state passes a law and sell on the black market at a higher price,” he said.
The town is to be commended for taking the lead on underage tobacco purchases. Yet, until the state adopts a similar law to include all of the 169 towns, Southington merchants will just have to grudgingly wait.