Bridgeport debates hike in age limit for cigarette sales
Smoke ’em if you got ’em — and if you are at least 21 years old, according to a proposed local law heading to the Bridgeport City Council.
The council’s Ordinance Committee this week voted 4-3 to make Bridgeport the second municipality in Connecticut to raise the age limit for purchasing cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other natural or synthetic tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Hartford was the first in the state, enacting similar legislation in October.
“What we are proposing is really to restrict the access of youths ... to these products,” Maritza Bond, Bridgeport’s health director, told the committee.
She cited a 2017 Connecticut Youth Tobacco Survey that found younger teenagers have access to such products through older high school friends.
“We’re not really trying to target current smokers,” Bond added.
The proposal, scheduled for a Jan. 22 public hearing, was watered down following a debate sparked by some council members with nicotine habits.
Councilman Marcus Brown, a committee cochairman and smoker, successfully amended the age increase to exempt anyone 18 years old as of the date the law would take effect if approved by the full council.
“What happens to the 20-year-old (who has been) smoking for two years?” Brown said in defense of his change, adding later: “We are literally telling people what they can or cannot do at an age they were doing it already.”
Brown’s amendment mirrored a bill debated this year by the state legislature to prohibit cigarette sales statewide to those under 21. That legislation did not pass, leaving the matter up to individual cities and towns to regulate.
Bond vowed in an interview after the Ordinance Committee’s approval of Brown’s amendment to lobby the full council to restore the stricter 21-andolder rule before final passage.
“I have a 20-year-old and a 16-year-old,” Bond said. “I would not want them to be addicted at such a young age.”
That is the case she and other supporters of the age increase made — that it will strengthen a nationwide effort to prevent youths from taking up smoking and those that already do to perhaps kick the habit.
Councilman Peter Spain, who said his father died from lung cancer that spread to his brain, argued that Bridgeport, by joining hundreds of other cities nationwide that have changed the legal age for purchasing tobacco, will be part of “a cultural shift.”
“We’re moving the needle,” Spain told the Ordinance Committee.
Brown, Ernie Newton, Rosalina Roman-Christy and Eneida Martinez all voted for the amended age limit law.