(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt and Patrick J. Diegnan to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarette devices from 19 to 21 in New Jersey.
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."
Specifically, 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 first state to raise the minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco to 21.
"Whether or not to smoke is not a decision a young, developing mind should make," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). "With this legislation, we would offer time and the opportunity to grow up a little first before making a decision that could change the course of someone's life forever."
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 was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee and would take effect on the first day of the fourth month following the date of enactment.