Wilton editorial - smoking and vaping

COVID fatigue has set in for many, but continued vigilance is necessary for the foreseeable future.

COVID fatigue has set in for many, but continued vigilance is necessary for the foreseeable future.

Contributed photo /

Tuesday marked an important day in Connecticut as far as health is concerned. As of Oct. 1, it has become that much harder for high school kids to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products as well as vaping products that contain nicotine. That’s because a new state law prohibits sale of those products to people under 21.

The legislation was passed earlier this year — overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate — and signed by Gov. Ned Lamont. All three of Wilton’s legislators — state Sen. Will Haskell (D-26), state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and state Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125) — voted in favor of the bill.

Included in the state budget was a 40-percent-per-milliliter tax on electronic cigarette liquid that is pre-filled and manufacturer sealed, and a 10-percent tax on the wholesale price of all other vaping products.

At the heart of this is a serious effort to discourage the deadly habit of smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes and using chewing tobacco, and the increasingly deadly use of vaping products. A study released in 2017 by the state Department of Public Health showed that vaping among high school students in Connecticut stood at 14.7 percent, but that 20.8 percent of students 18 and older partake. That is double the number of students from just two years earlier.

The study also showed that young people generally are unaware of nicotine in e-cigarettes, to which they can easily become addicted. The study also says about 95 percent of all tobacco users began before age 21.

If raising the age to purchase tobacco products mirrors what happened when states raised the legal drinking age to 21, there is hope for positive outcomes.

An article published in 2010 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, indicates that when the minimum legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 in all 50 states by 1988, the incidence of alcohol-related driving accidents decreased dramatically.

Among fatally injured drivers ages 16 to 20, the percentage with positive blood alcohol levels declined from 61 percent in 1982 to 31 percent in 1995, a bigger decline than for older age groups. The article says that almost all studies designed to gauge the effects of raising the drinking age to 21 show reductions in drinking, problematic drinking, drinking and driving, and alcohol-related crashes among young people.

Nevertheless, many underage people still drink and young people will still find a way to acquire and use tobacco and vaping products. But it is a step and a step in the right direction. And Connecticut is not alone. Eighteen states, including New York and Massachusetts next door, have passed similar legislation.