With more than one in four American high school students using e-cigarettes and children as young as 11-years-old beginning to vape right here in New Jersey, Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, M.D., Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Yvonne Lopez and Nancy Pinkin sponsor legislation to more thoroughly regulate the electronic smoking industry in an effort to protect both minors and adult users. The bill passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
The bill (A-5922/5923) draws upon recommendations made by the Electronic Smoking Device Task Force report released in October 2019, which suggested ways to efficiently monitor these products and mitigate potential risks to consumers.
“As more information is learned about the sale and manufacture of electronic smoking devices, it has become all the more evident that these products need to be more closely regulated,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This legislation seeks to restrict underage access to dangerous and addictive products while protecting adults from unregulated merchandise that could expose them to harmful substances without their knowledge. New Jersey residents must be kept safe when it comes to this growing public health concern.”
To help prevent underage access to vapor products, the legislation would require retailers to use an electronic age verification system and would require age verification when the products are sold online.
Within the past year alone, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued more than 100 warning letters to retailers after compliance check inspections uncovered the sale of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) or e-liquid products to minors. The legislation would also increase fines and penalties for retailers found selling tobacco or vapor products to any customers under the age of 21.
The Department of Health would also be required to establish standards for those compliance inspections while municipalities would be allowed to assess permit fees on vapor businesses in order to use the money for inspections.
“We cannot ignore businesses selling products that pose a health risk to minors when there is evidence of those businesses disregarding laws aimed at protecting our youth,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “By requiring more stringent age verification procedures and increasing the penalty for stores that knowingly sell dangerous products to young customers, we can help prevent these frequent violations.”
In addition, the bill would prohibit the sale of any electronic smoking device disguised to look like another object, such as pens, USB flash drives, hoodies or watches, to help prevent teenagers from concealing the fact that they are vaping. It would also prohibit all tobacco products from being sold in pharmacies.
Since certain vape cartridges can contain an amount of nicotine equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes, the legislation would also prohibit the sale of vaping liquid that contains nicotine in a concentration of more than two percent or any ingredient added by someone other than the original manufacturer.
“The high levels of nicotine found in some of these vape cartridges are placing young people at serious risk for medical issues,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “Not only does the chemical intentionally foster addiction, but anyone under the age of 25 can have their attention, learning and memory capabilities negatively impacted by nicotine use. We cannot allow products to continue being sold with such high levels of nicotine.”
With public health officials scrambling to track down the cause of countrywide vaping-related illnesses and deaths this past year, the legislation would also ensure thorough tracking of these products going forward in order to help officials more easily pinpoint the source/cause of any future issues.
Manufacturers would be required to upload information about their products to an electronic database to help officials verify the products meet state requirements, and a standardized tracking feature would be required on all vapor products sold in New Jersey.
“When countless teenagers are drawn to vaping due in part to targeted marketing, and adults and children alike are dealing with dangerous lung illnesses, it is time for us to make sure these concerns are addressed,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “The terrible health problems so many Americans have experienced recently after using electronic smoking devices have made it clear the industry needs better oversight.”
The bill will now head to the Speaker for further consideration.