HARTFORD, CT — A newly released fiscal note for a bill that would raise the legal age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 is “wildly inaccurate” according to Tobacco 21 proponents.
A spokeswoman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association, said the calculations provided by the Office of Fiscal Analysis assume “all smokers between the age of 18 and 21 would immediately quit smoking if this bill were to become law.”
That won’t happen.
“As public health advocates, we’d love nothing more than to see that happen, but the reality is, tobacco is an addiction and this legislation will have very little effect on current smokers,” Jen Daly, a spokeswoman for the group said.
The fiscal note estimates a revenue loss of $42.3 million a year starting in 2020. It says that’s based on information from the Institute of Medicine, which found raising the legal smoking age to 21 will decrease smoking rates by 12 percent over time. In order to get an early number nonpartisan analysts used population data and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that approximately 5.4 percent of Connecticut residents age 18 to 20 smoke. It then applied the 12 percent number to the 5.4 percent of residents ages 18 to 20.
However, proponents of the legislation say that’s not exactly how it works.
They said evidence shows that very few adult smokers will quit smoking and the state won’t lose revenue.
However, it will decrease by 25 percent the number of teens ages 15 to 17 who start smoking.
The impact on cigarette tax revenue over the first five years is estimated to be a fraction of one percent, according to proponents. That amounts to between $880,000 and $1.77 million in reduced revenue.
The Office of Fiscal Analysis doesn’t comment on its calculations beyond what is published in its report, which is available online.
However, proponents say they shouldn’t feel bad because Connecticut is not the only state to get it wrong.
A similar bill faced the same problem last year in the state of Washington, which estimated a $10 million revenue loss from raising the age in that state.
Proponents said using New York City, which has been enforcing the law for two years, as an example, there’s “no evidence” that Tobacco 21 had contributed to a decline in tobacco tax revenue.
Tobacco 21 pointed to the 2015 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, which projected that the effect over the first five years would be a 0.4 percent or 2.0 percent reduction in the adult smoking rate depending on two different models.