Snuffing Out Cigarette Machines

The remaining cigarette vending machines in Connecticut may soon disappear as cities and towns throughout the state are in various stages of preparing ordinances that would ban the machines anywhere within their boundaries, according to the Hartford Courant.

Cigarette machines, even in such traditional locations as bars and restaurants, would be illegal following a recent court ruling in the state that gives municipalities power to outlaw the machines.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a vocal critic of the tobacco industry, compared the machines to a "street-corner pusher" of addictive and deadly products. He urged towns to review a model ordinance and consider enacting one of their own.

Many municipalities are following his advice, the report said. West Hartford is considering an ordinance, as are Canton and Simsbury. Other towns, including Orange and Bridgeport, already have ordinances in place that ban the machines.

"Towns and cities have a tremendous opportunity to take a stand against children smoking [with the ordinances]. Vending machines are a major source of cigarettes for children. They are essentially age blind," Blumenthal said.

Even though it is already against the law for minors to buy cigarettes and most machines carry signs outlining their legal use, many ignore the rules. Some machines are placed in foyers of restaurants or bars and determined minors buy cigarettes before anyone can intervene.

Philip Morris Cos. Inc., distributor of category leader Marlboro, said it supports aggressive steps to combat underage smoking, though there are alternatives to banning the vending machines outright.

"We don't want kids to smoke; we've committed ourselves to that on various levels," said Robert Riggle, a spokesman for the cigarette maker. "We believe in, and we support, face-to-face transactions where age can be checked. It's up to government and up to people to decide what's best for them."
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