New Jersey Raises Legal Age to Buy Cigarettes to 21
New Jersey has become the third state in the nation to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products and electronic smoking devices from 19 to 21. The new law, which took effect on November 1, 2017, aims to protect young people from the deadly effects of tobacco use and nicotine addiction.
According to the Department of Health, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in New Jersey, killing more than 11,000 residents each year. The younger someone starts to smoke, the more addicted they are likely to become and the harder it is to quit. By raising the purchase age, New Jersey hopes to reduce the number of youth who start smoking and develop lifelong health problems.
The law applies to all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, pipe tobacco, and electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes and vape pens. The law also prohibits the sale of these products to anyone under 21 years of age. Violators can face fines of up to $1,000 and may be subject to a license suspension or revocation.
The Department of Health has mailed nearly 10,000 tobacco vendors and vape shop operators information about the law and signs for retailers to post. These signs must be clearly visible where tobacco products are displayed and at the cash register. The Department has also distributed educational materials to school districts, colleges and universities, and health advocates.
New Jersey joins Hawaii and California as the only states that have raised the smoking-purchase age to 21. Several other states and municipalities have introduced similar legislation or are considering doing so. The federal government has also adopted a law raising the minimum age of sale of all tobacco products to 21, effective immediately as of December 2019.
Some of the reasons why New Jersey decided to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21 are based on scientific evidence and public health concerns. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nearly 90% of adult smokers began smoking before age 18, and 99% started by age 26. Research shows that delaying the initiation of smoking can reduce the risk of becoming addicted and developing smoking-related diseases.
Another reason is the growing popularity of electronic smoking devices among young people. These devices, also known as e-cigarettes, vape pens, or Juuls, deliver nicotine and other toxic substances through aerosolized liquid. They come in various flavors and shapes that appeal to youth, and are often marketed as safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes. However, the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that e-cigarettes have the potential to cause lasting harm to the health of young users, especially their brain development.
By raising the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21, New Jersey hopes to prevent a new generation of smokers from becoming addicted and suffering from the consequences. The law is supported by many health organizations and advocates, such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and Tobacco-Free Kids. They believe that this measure will save lives, reduce health care costs, and improve the quality of life for millions of New Jerseyans.