Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt, Patrick J. Diegnan and Mila Jasey to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarette devices from 19 to 21 in New Jersey continued advancing on Thursday, receiving approval from the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
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."
"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 consideration by the full Assembly.