On Tuesday, the Hackensack City Council began discussion of an ordinance that would raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes from 19 to 21 within the city of Hackensack. Englewood and Teaneck have both passed similar measures joining New York City who passed such a ban in 2013.
“They’re going to get their tobacco anyway,” Labrosse said according to the Record. “What’s to stop them from driving to Maywood and buying them anyway. We’re talking about losing business to another town.”
Hackensack Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino said she’d received letters from business owners worried about a ban. Canestrino also said she had mixed feelings and wanted to hear more from the businesses that depend on cigarette sales. “We’re trying to keep our businesses going, especially ones who are struggling,” Canestrino said in a report.
Englewood was the first municipality in the state to ban such tobacco sales in August, Sayreville followed in September and Teaneck in November.
New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), who represents Hackensack, as well as Teaneck and Englewood, is the primary sponsor of legislation pending in the State Assembly that would make such a ban statewide.
Assembly bill A3254 raises the minimum age for purchase and sale of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices from 19 to 21 throughout the state. The New Jersey Senate has already passed the measure 22-10. The Legislature, in 2006, raised the age limit of tobacco purchase from 18 to 19.
Assemblywoman Huttle spoke to the Bergen Dispatch this afternoon about the proposal. “By raising the smoking age to 21 we can stop another generation from becoming addicted,” Huttle said. “Tobacco is addictive, period,” she added. “Maybe we can get this done on a statewide basis so they [Hackensack] won’t even have to figure it out, we can get it done for them.”
Huttle said that as a mother with a daughter in college, she is surprised to see so many young people smoking. “I thought most kids got it,” Huttle said speaking about the health risk of smoking and the statistic that as high as 95% of smokers start smoking before the age of 21, “we can do better,” Huttle said.
The State estimates that individuals aged 19 and 20 currently purchase about 8.2 million packs of cigarettes per year in New Jersey, or about three percent of all taxable cigarette sales in the Garden State. The ban of such sales is estimated to possibly cost the State, in cigarette tax revenue, approximately $15.5 million annually. The state also estimates that only 30% of those young people affected by the ban would continue to purchase cigarettes by other means.
Although the financial loss is measurable the State’s numbers are considered to be higher than expected projections due to an overall decline in smoking. As for the shop keepers and tax collectors, “the health and safety of young adults is worth more than what they may be losing” Huttle said.
Tobacco use results in approximately 434,000 deaths and costs society $52 billion in the United States annually, according to the American Public Health Association. Early use of tobacco can and does result in long-term addiction, health problems, and premature death.
Perhaps the loss of revenue that Hackensack might face from implementing a ban on purchasing cigarettes for those under the age of 21 is an investment that will be made up by the purchases, payroll and sales taxes paid by those who live longer as a result of that ban.