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Assembly Health Committee Approves Legislation to Tackle Underage Smoking and Vaping

Assembly Democrats sponsor legislation aimed at keeping New Jersey youth away from these harmful actions

(TRENTON) The Assembly Health Committee approved a trio of bills earlier this week that seek to combat the rising usage of tobacco and vaping products, particularly among young people. The legislation would increase penalties for prohibited sales, require inspections for retailers, and create guidelines for schools to create public awareness campaigns about the dangers of smoking and vaping.

“It’s well documented that smoking and vaping can cause devastating and irrevocable damage,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee (D-Burlington). “Far too many of our youth use tobacco and vaping products and that, quite simply, has to stop. The bills we advanced today are all designed to aid us in our fight to curb underage usage of these products.”

  • Bill A3992, sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Venezia, Assemblyman Conaway, and Assemblywoman Tennille McCoy, would increase penalties for certain prohibited sales of tobacco and vapor products.
  • Bill A2388, sponsored by Assemblyman William Spearman and Assemblyman Conaway, would require more frequent inspections of cigarette and vapor product dealers.
  • Bill A2029, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, Assemblyman Conaway, and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, would direct the New Jersey Departments of Education (NJDOE) and Health (NJDOH) to develop guidelines for school districts and institutions of higher education concerning student vaping awareness campaigns.

A3992 would expand the definition of “tobacco product” to include any product containing, made of, or derived from tobacco or nicotine and affiliated accessories. This includes vapor products, snuff, hookahs, filters, rolling papers, and similar items. The bill would also increase the penalty for retailers selling “tobacco products” to anyone under the age of 21 – up to $750 for the first offense, up to $1,500 for the second offense and up to $3,000 for subsequent offenses.

“Safeguarding the health and well-being of our youth should be a priority,” emphasized Assemblyman Venezia (D-Essex). “Updating terminology and extending regulations to encompass all tobacco products and accessories is a crucial measure in our commitment to shielding our young people from the dangers of addiction and its lifelong impacts.”

Assemblywoman McCoy (D-Mercer, Middlesex) stated, “Tobacco products, particularly e-cigarettes and vapes, have become a significant health epidemic among our youth. I believe that this bill serves as a prime example of legislation prioritizing the health and well-being of our constituents. By strengthening existing laws, the aim is not only to discourage children and young adults from accessing tobacco products but also to reveal the associated risks.”

A2388 would allow county or municipal law enforcement, under the direction of the Attorney General or Commissioner of the NJDOH, to conduct a minimum of two annual inspections of retailers, serve and execute summons for violations, and forfeit vapor products found in violation. Retailers in violation would receive a three-month follow-up.

“We want to discourage retailers from selling tobacco products in violation of the law,” said Assemblyman Spearman (D-Camden, Gloucester). “The tobacco industry has gone through a major evolution in the past few years, particularly with the rise of e-cigarette and vape usage among teens and young adults. Regular inspections will enable us to be informed and address challenges before they escalate into serious issues.”

A2029 would assist school districts, colleges, and universities in communicating with students about the risks of vaping by instructing the NJDOE and NJDOH to create guidelines for on-campus, anti-vaping campaigns. The campaigns would be multi-tiered, offering decision-making tools and age-specific marketing materials, with information about the consequences of vaping on physical and mental health, pregnancy, workplace environments, and exposure to young children.

“Children and young adults are frequently influenced by peer trends. While some trends, such as the latest TikTok dance, may be harmless, others, such as smoking can have significant and lasting consequences,” said Assemblywoman Speight (D-Essex). “Empowering schools to engage with their student body and provide education on resisting peer pressure and staying safe enables us to reduce the number of youths who try smoking or vaping.”

“A study by the University of North Carolina found that ‘Real Cost’ prevention ads decreased youth susceptibility to vaping and smoking cigarettes,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “This bill would translate that research into practice by providing schools with guidelines to help facilitate the implementation of on-campus anti-vaping campaigns tailored for adolescents and young adults.”