Representative Arthur J. O’Neill (R-69) has proposed legislation this year aimed at increasing enforcement action against the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors. O’Neill was moved to introduce the proposal following a public hearing of Appropriations and Public Health Committees last month. At that meeting statistics from the 2013 Report of the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund Board of Trustees were reviewed. They revealed an alarming decrease in enforcement which has resulted in a spike in illegal tobacco sales to minors over the past four years.
O’Neill, noting that February is National Cancer Awareness Month, said there has been a nearly 50% rise in illegal sales of tobacco products to minors since 2009, placing a large number of minors at risk of addiction and tobacco-related illnesses and disease. “As someone who had both parents die of tobacco-related illnesses, I know how high the stakes are on this issue,” he said.
According to the report, between 2009 and today the violation rate of illegal sales of tobacco to minors has risen from 9.7% to 14.8%. O’Neill’s legislation would empower the state with greater enforcement capabilities and return the state to the path of protecting children from the harmful effects of tobacco use.
A 2011 report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that 19.9% of Connecticut’s high school students had used some form of tobacco in the previous month. The Connecticut School Health Survey estimates that 7.3 million packs of cigarettes are bought and smoked by Connecticut youth each year, starting as early as age 11, with little difference between boys and girls.
As the legislature is currently in a new “short” session, legislators are limited to introducing measures which are budget related. As a result, Rep. O’Neill’s request is currently before the legislature’s Public Health Committee, where he is hopeful the bill will be raised.
This session of the Connecticut General Assembly kicked off on February 5th and will conclude at midnight, Wednesday, May 7th, 2014.