Connecticut has moved towards the front of the pack in the race to become the third state with a minimum age of 21-years-old to purchase tobacco or electronic smoking devices, as H.B. 5384 has cleared its House committee hearings and will head for a full vote by the chamber in the near future.
The bill, which was introduced at the start of the current legislative session by Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-31, cleared the Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding by a 41-10 vote on Thursday. It now heads to the Legislative Commissioners’ Office to be checked for constitutionality and consistency with other laws, with stops at the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis before it can officially be added to the house calendar.
Both retailers and consumers would be subject to fines should the bill become law. A retailer or anyone who sells or furnishes tobacco to an person under 21 would be fined up to $200 for a first offense, $350 for a second offense within an 18-month period or up to $500 for a third offense with that same time frame.
A person under 21 who purchases tobacco or misrepresents their age in an attempt to purchase tobacco would face up to a $50 fine for the first violation and up to $100 for each subsequent offense.
The change comes with notable economic impact as well, as the Office of Fiscal Analysis stated that the age increase would result in an estimated cigarette and tobacco tax revenue loss of $14.3 million in fiscal year 2018 and $33.3 million in fiscal year 2019, while penalty revenues would be less than $75,000 annually.
The increase would go into effect on Oct. 1, 2017, should it be passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor.