TRENTON — New Jersey became the third state in the nation to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21, Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday, saying, “no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance.”
New Jersey already had banned tobacco sales to anyone under 19. But the bill’s advocates pushed for a higher age pointing to studies that show youth who don’t take up smoking into their early 20s will never make it a habit.
Echoing his often-used theme of breaking the cycle of addiction, the governor issued a statement saying the time had come to protect young New Jerseyans by “giving young people more time to develop a maturity and better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place.”
“My mother died from the effects of smoking, and no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance,” Christie added. “Additionally, the less people who develop costly tobacco habits that can cause health problems, such as lung cancer, heart disease and developmental issues, the less strain there will be on our healthcare system.”
Move to raise age for N.J. tobacco sales to 21 gains momentum again
The law also applies to electronic smoking devices, according to the legislation, (S359). Vendors who violate the law would face a maximum fine of $1,000.
The Christie administration has taken considerable criticism for cutting state funding for smoking cessation programs and vetoing the same bill in January 2016. In the budget approved early this month, the Christie administration is spending $686,000 in state funds for smoking cessation and research efforts.
Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), one of the bill’s prime sponsors, said he was pleasantly surprised Christie had signed the bill, which he had first sponsored in 2013.
“Finally after all these years we found something we agree on. I’m feeling the love from the Gov,” he said. “I’m excited for it, for the lives we save moving forward.”
Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), also a sponsor, noted the federal government estimates that 700 children under the age of 18 become regular smokers each day, and almost one-third will die. “Making it harder to buy cigarettes by raising the age to legally purchase them in New Jersey will help prevent our youth from becoming lifelong smokers and suffering the long-term effects of the habit,” he said.
Convenience stores and other retailers have fought the legislation’s passage, arguing they would lose millions of dollars in sales.
An analysis by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services showed as much as $16.2 million in sales tax would be lost by prohibiting 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds from buying tobacco and electronic cigarette products.
Retailers also said they would also lose additional sales of sandwiches, beverages and other items young smokers would buy while picking up a pack of cigarettes.
The law takes effect in four months, according to the legislation.
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