(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela R. Lampitt, Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., and Mila M. Jasey to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarette devices from 19 to 21 in New Jersey received final legislative approval Monday, by a vote of 48-21-5.
Following the Assembly giving the measure final legislative approval, Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) issued a multimedia package on the bill.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from Vainieri Huttle is appended at the end of the release.
Vainieri Huttle said she sponsored the bill in hopes that when signed into law more youth will cease or delay smoking habits.
“Many people start smoking in their teens because of peer pressure or the desire to fit in,” Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Most teens feel invincible at that age and can’t fully comprehend the potential for addiction as well as the devastating long-term effects smoking can have on their health. Raising the purchasing age would give them the chance to mature more before making this potentially life-altering decision.”
The bill (A-3254) raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco and electronic smoking devices from 19 to 21, and raises the minimum age from 19 to 21 years of a person to whom a vendor may sell, offer for sale, distribute, give or furnish such products in New Jersey.
“The emergence of electronic cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco and the rapid rise in their popularity has posed a unique allure for teens,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “We don’t yet have a clear understanding of the long-term effects of e-cigarettes. However, the underlying propensity to become addicted to nicotine is still there and that’s something we need to be vigilant about.”
New Jersey is currently one of only four states that set the legal smoking age at 19. If this legislation were to become law, then New Jersey would become the second state, behind Hawaii, to raise the minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco to 21.
“Peer pressure on an 18- or 19-year-old is much different than when one reaches the age of 21,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This legislature will discourage young people from making a choice that will literally put their lives at risk.”
“Smoking is a life altering choice that can have irreparable consequences for long-term smokers,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “If we can prevent more young people from ever starting that is a tremendous victory because it means lives saved and an overall improvement in public health.”
The bill would also amend various related statutes concerning penalties, fines, signage requirements, non face-to-face transactions, and enforcement provisions to reflect the increased minimum age.
The measure now awaits action by the governor.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Assembly Human Services Committee Chair:
“What this legislation would do, would help change the culture and promote a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle in the State of New Jersey. It would ban selling tobacco and cigarettes to people under 21, which makes good public health policy. Statistics show that 95 percent of habitual smokers have started before the age of 21.
“The National Institutes of Health has proved that raising the tobacco age can, quite frankly, save lives. We all know the fatal effects of smoking and second hand smoke. This piece of legislation is a good public health policy piece of legislation. It also comes on the heels of New York City’s decision to do the same thing.
“Some naysayers are saying that it would produce a gap in our budget of about $19 million. However, we can counterbalance that with $4.6 billion of savings in direct health care costs which are attributed to smoking. And for the naysayers that are talking about there would be a decrease in their retail sales, I would look at the example that CVS has set last year, creating a bold statement to not sell cigarettes. If one of the largest retailers in our nation can do that and set that example, I think, again, it’s a growing trend around the nation to develop a smoke free policy.”