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Sen. Heather Somers co-chairs the Public Health Committee (Courtesy of

HARTORD, CT — The Public Health Committee took the first step in raising the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 by sending the measure to the Senate.

The votes were held open until 5 p.m. but a majority of the members voted to approve the bill, SB 164. The committee eventually voted 22-4 in favor of the bill with one member absent.

Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, was the only committee member to vocally express objection to the bill. Srinivasan said he was concerned that the grandfather language in the bill creates two tiers of individuals: those who turn 18 prior to Oct. 1, 2018 and those who don’t.

The bill says anyone who turns 18 prior to Oct. 1, 2018 would be allowed to purchase tobacco products.

“This was brought to us as a compromise from the American Cancer Society,” Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said.

She said proponents felt the legislation might have a better chance if it allowed those who were already purchasing tobacco to continue, just like the state did when it raised the drinking age from 18 to 21.

Connecticut residents testified during a public hearing last week that the bill was necessary to help prevent the loss of life to tobacco. According to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, 4,900 adults will die in Connecticut from smoking this year — 13 per day.

“Tobacco use causes so much harm in our society, harm that is avoidable,” New Haven resident Abigail Roth said. “The best way to avoid it is to make it harder for kids to get addicted to tobacco.”

Roth testified that the bill should ban tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to keep the adolescent smoking rates low. The bill includes banning vapor products and electronic cigarette liquids.

Last year, a similar bill never made it through the General Assembly. The primary argument was the state would lose $43 million in tax revenue as a result.

But this year, Connecticut may join the five states including New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, California, and Hawaii that have raised their tobacco sales to 21.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will join with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Connecticut on March 28 at the state Capitol to support raising the age for tobacco products to 21.