Health & Wellness

New Legislation in New Jersey Raises Age to 21 for Purchasing Smoking Products

Newly signed legislation by Gov. Chris Christie requires those who purchase tobacco and nicotine products to be 21 years of age and over, beginning Nov. 1. Credits: Tina Pappas

LITTLE FALLS/WOODLAND PARK, NJ - Newly signed legislation will raise the minimum age for buying and selling tobacco and electronic smoking devices come this fall. 

Effective Nov. 1, the law, signed by Gov. Christie last week, raises the minimum age from 19 to 21, making New Jersey the third state in the nation to raise the age for purchasing tobacco and nicotine products. According to reports, in recent years, teenagers and young adults have "vaped" or smoked e-cigarettes more than regular tobacco products.

Towns in Passaic Valley have dealt with issues regarding sales to minors recently. In Woodland Park, the owner of a local convenience store was arrested for selling an e-cigarette to a minor in 2015.

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In Little Falls, the governing body has cracked down on vapor electronic cigarettes being sold to minors. According to  Mayor James Damiano, minors who acquire them, many times, end up drinking the substance rather than smoking it, as a result of the the lack of regulation from state and federal governments.

The township introduced a licensing for those who wish to sell the electronic cigarettes, or in particular, the liquid that is used to sell them, explained Damiano. Businesses are required to now pay a fee to the Little Falls Health Department as a result of an ordinance that passed recently. It will allow the health department to regulate the sale of liquid nicotine locally.

"The new legislation signed by the governor is in line with the township's recent ordinance that allows the Health Department to monitor the sale of liquid tobacco and nicotine," said Damiano. "It is supportive of Little Falls' initiative to ensure that young people have more time to become educated about the dangers of smoking, particularly related to tobacco and nicotine."

The owner of the Mini-Mart Food Store in Woodland Park, located at 1051 McBride Ave., commented on the new legislation.

"I think it's a good thing," said Richard Tailor, who bought the business in 2016 from the previous owner. "I always check for identification if I'm not sure of someone's age. It might hurt business slightly but I feel it's better for the the health of young people."

Javier Slacal, who works at the 7-11, located at 356 Rifle Camp Road in Woodland Park, also commented.

"I think it's positive," he explained. "It helps when young people are older to make better decisions for themselves. We've always checked for identification and now we will be doing that when this is in effect this November, to make sure those making those purchases are 21 and over."

At the recent Little Falls Township Council meeting, local resident Arnie Korotkin commented on the legislation during the public comment portion of the meeting.

"It's a public health issue and the majority of people who start smoking are under the age of 21," he said.  "We know the effects of cigarette smoking and secondhand smoking regarding cancer,  so I'm glad seeing that enacted. We're the third state in the nation to enact such legislation into law so I think it's worth noting."

At a prior council meeting, Korotkin suggested that the town join with other state municipalities in passing an ordinance regulating the age for the purchase of cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly nine out of ten smokers first tried smoking before they were 18. Each day more than 3,200 youth aged 18 years or younger smoke their first cigarette. An additional 2,100 youth and young adults became daily cigarette smokers. Almost all first tried smoking by age 26. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 death each year in the nation, estimated at nearly one in five deaths. 

Smokers are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, according to the CDC. It causes stroke and coronary heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the nation.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, of Englewood, co-sponsored the bill. 


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