MERIDEN, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont celebrated a new law Tuesday that bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 at Orville Platt High School.
Lamont told a group of about 40 high school students that they passed the law “because we love you.”
Lamont, who is 65, said they passed the law and were at the school Tuesday because — just like the teens he was speaking to — he’s seen a lot of his peers and friends make mistakes. He said at the age of 17 he thought he was invincible, but obviously that’s not true.
“The law is something that we can do,” Lamont said. “It sends a message.”
He said they know the harm cigarettes can cause, but they don’t know the long-term effects of vaping.
Late last week the state Department of Public Health announced that 18 Connecticut residents had been hospitalized and diagnosed with vaping-related lung injuries. All of the patients have since been discharged from the hospital.
The 18 cases involve nine residents from Fairfield, five from New Haven, one from Hartford, one from New London, one from Tolland, and one from Windham counties. Four of them were under 18 years of age, 11 were 18 to 34, and three were 35 or older.
The governors in surrounding states have responded to the increase in vaping-related lung injuries in different ways.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued a four-month moratorium on the sale of all vaping products. Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned the sale of flavored vaping products, which are known to appeal to children.
Unlike Cuomo, Lamont doesn’t have the same authority to sign an executive order and ban the sale of flavored vaping products.
Lamont said it’s something the legislature could take up during a special session or during the regular session next year.
Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, suggested lawmakers begin exploring a ban on vaping. She said they could make an exception for medical marijuana users who vape a highly regulated product.
The Medical Marijuana Board of Physicians expressed concern last week about what would happen to some patients on the program if vaping became illegal.
A significant number of patients in Connecticut use vaporizer devices to take precise, fast-acting doses of medical marijuana for symptoms like chemotherapy-induced nausea, doctors said. They worry that steps to ban vaporizers could take away their much-needed relief.
Lamont said he would have to think about a ban on all vaping products.
“I make things illegal and there’s a great black market,” Lamont said.
He said they’ve made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 and they’re going to get rid of the flavored products.
“I gotta figure out what’s the safest thing to do going forward,” Lamont said.
Over the last several years, 18 states have adopted laws raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
The Lamont administration estimates that the state is set to lose about $6.3 million in annual tax revenue based on the implementation of the law. However, he said that young people’s health needs to take priority.