Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke about his career in protecting consumers from tobacco companies in Ward 2 on March 31 in an event hosted by the Kennedy Political Union.
Blumenthal entered his current office in 2011. Before entering the U.S. Senate, Blumenthal was the attorney general of Connecticut for five consecutive terms, frequently prosecuting cases related to public health and consumer protection, often against tobacco companies.
“I’m a believer in using law to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
While attorney general, Blumenthal and several other states’ attorneys general sued tobacco companies for false advertising, which many of his colleagues saw as a lost cause. The experience taught him how to practice law creatively to uphold moral values when necessary, he said.
Blumenthal earned a significant victory when the companies settled out of court.
“We had to fit the feeling of right and wrong into the laws,” he said.
Blumenthal is now fighting for the regulation of e-cigarettes in the Senate. He said tobacco companies are buying e-cigarette companies to lure younger consumers back to smoking nicotine products.
“They know it’s the best way to get someone to start smoking,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal’s five four-year terms as attorney general spanned from 1991 to 2011. He held the position for so long that at one point, his daughter started calling him the “eternal general,” he said.
As a senator, Blumenthal has had to deal with national attention on his state. Most recently, Connecticut was in the spotlight after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Several students in the audience asked about Blumenthal’s support of gun control measures in light of the shooting. Blumenthal said he felt confident stricter screening and gun control would eventually pass in the Senate, but he added that it may not happen for years.
Blumenthal also shared his experiences when he learned about the tragedy that day.
“I’ll never forget being there—the sights and sounds of those parents coming out of that firehouse and learning that their children would not be coming home,” he said.