Smoking Out Vending Machines
During the last year, multi-billion dollar tobacco lawsuits have dominated the news, while the state government has engaged in legal maneuvers in an attempt to keep cigarettes away from young people. Included in those efforts is the banning of cigarette a
Blumenthal recently sent a letter out to local municipalities requesting they consider putting a ban on cigarette vending machines in their towns. Since stiffer penalties are issued to those vendors who sell cigarettes to those under 18, vending machines have become an easy way for underage consumers to get tobacco products.
Orange was one of the first towns in the state to enact an ordinance banning tobacco vending machines. That ordinance was challenged in the State Supreme Court but, on May 8, the court upheld the town's ordinance. The Court held that a local ban on cigarette vending machines is perfectly consistent with Connecticut General Statute 12-289, which allows for placement of vending machines in areas generally accessible only to adults. Section H of the statute provides municipalities with the authority to ban these machines altogether.
"Nothing in this section (H) shall be construed as limiting a town or municipality a town or municipality from imposing more restrictive conditions on the use of vending machines for the sale of cigarettes," the State Supreme Court said in its decision. "A municipality shall be responsible for the enforcement of such conditions."
Blumenthal is now urging other towns to follow the lead of Orange and enact an ordinance of their own.
"Vending machines are a major source of illegal cigarette purchases for young children," Blumenthal said in his letter. "They provide the tobacco industry with a ready dispenser--not unlike a street corner 'pusher'--of its addictive and deadly product. It will send a strong, significant signal that your town is willing to take direct action to protect your children from the disease and death caused by cigarettes."
Already, First Selectman Jim McCusker of Clinton, First Selectman Michael Pace of Old Saybrook, First Selectman Sam Bartlett of Guilford, First Selectman Martin Heft of Chester, and First Selectman Anthony DaRos of Branford have presented this information to their boards to consider the possible enacting of an ordinance in their towns.
The town of Madison has already begun weeding out cigarette vending machines, with only one in town, located at a bar. Patrons must ask an attendant for a key that opens the machine.
Madison has also put together a sting operation to find stores that are selling to underage children. The state provides the town with an underage person, as well as agents to help in the process.
"We are becoming very aware of the dangers with youth and smoking," Madison Youth Officer Jon Pardo said. "Everybody's getting behind this."