SOUTHINGTON - The Town Council held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance to raise the legal age for vaping and tobacco from 18 to 21.
As of press deadline, not vote had been taken.
Council Chairman Chris Palmieri, who is also board chairman of the STEPS Coalition that proposed the ordinance, said that there is a push to adopt this change at the state level and Hartford and Bridgeport adopted similar local ordinances.
Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner explained that the ordinance would also require retailers who sell vape and tobacco products to register annually for a license. They can be fined if non-compliant and could face increased penalties or lose their license if the violations keep up.
“The student is the victim; we are targeting the suppliers,” said Palmieri. “With flavors like bubblegum, grape and cotton candy they are definitely marketing to our youth.”
Palmieri said the town received three emails in favor of the ordinance from “Tobacco 21,” The American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.
Councilor Kelly Morrissey read a letter from Shane Lockwood from the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District who also supports the ordinance.
Resident Sarah Meade, a junior at Southington High School, also supported the change.
“This will help to protect students my age and underclassmen below me,” she said. “We should take an active role in ensuring better health and safety for our youth - the citizens that will represent us in the future.”
Bryte Johnson, state director of government relations from the American Cancer Society, who is not a town resident, said he strongly supports the ordinance.
“One thousand, three hundred kids in Connecticut will try tobacco for the first time this year,” he said. “Fifty-six thousand youths alive today will lose their lives early because of tobacco.”
Another non-resident, Ken Farbstein of the NIAT (Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment) Foundation, of Massachusetts, said that in his state, local municipalities lead the charge for raising the smoking and vaping age.
Also at the meeting, Fire Chief Richard Butler and Palmieri praised the response of police, fire and other first responders to the blaze that consumed Tops Marketplace.
Palmieri said that the council offers its condolences to the owners of Tops and stands behind them in their efforts to rebuild. He said that firefighters from Cheshire and Farmington helped to contain the fire that night in the middle of a snowstorm. He also thanked firefighters in other surrounding communities for being on standby.
“Thank God there were no casualties. I also want to thank the owners of McDonalds for letting us use their facilities across the street,” said Palmieri.
Councilor Victoria Triano said that Arby’s, McDonalds and Stop & Shop have offered jobs to Tops employees if they need something to hold them over.
Palmieri said that the community’s greatest strength is how it comes together to support each other in times of need.
Butler said the fire was the sort that firefighters see once in their careers.
“The turnout from our volunteers was fantastic,” he said. “We had 35 to 38 volunteers and if we didn’t have them we would have had to call in additional outside resources.”
Butler said that crews fought the fire from 7:30 p.m. until after 3 a.m. He said that everything was coordinated seemlessly with crews and town departments.
“I consider it a success on one hand but such a loss for the community on the other,” he said. “This was done through pure hard work.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.