Another NJ city raises tobacco-buying age to 21 — will it make a difference?
TRENTON — The state's capital will become the 22nd New Jersey municipality where you have to be at least 21 to buy tobacco products. The statewide minimum age is 19.
The City Council voted Thursday night to prohibit the sale of tobacco or nicotine delivery products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under 21 starting March. The order also bans self-serve cigarette machines.
Retailers that are caught selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 will be fined $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation and $1,000 for the third violation. The city's Department of Health has the option to suspended a retailer's food establishment license for up to three days.
The change had the support of Mayor Eric Jackson and many organizations, including the Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Trenton YMCA, the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium and the Children's Home Society.
"Tobacco addiction continues to be a paramount public health concern, particularly among our young people. Therefore, delaying the age of smoking significantly prevents a lifetime of addiction," Jackson said.
The group Tobacco 21, which is behind the movement to raise the age to 21 nationwide, praised the vote.
"We applaud Mayor Jackson, Jim Brownlee [Director of the Department of Health & Human Services for Trenton], and the City Council members for their leadership in supporting this strong step to reduce tobacco use," Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.
GASP spokeswoman Karen Blumenfeld said Trenton joins New York City, Boston, California and Hawaii in raising the age.
"90 percent of young people who start smoking do so by the time they are age 21. For those young adults it's important to reduce access to these products," Blumenfeld said, citing a report that estimates a quarter-million lives would be saved by raising the age.
The industry group representing convenience stores is skeptical.
"It is feel-good legislation," said Sal Risalvavato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, C‐Store & Automotive Association, who added that it will not stop anyone from smoking. "All its going to do is hurt small businesses in Trenton. Anyone in that age category that wants to buy cigarettes, especially in that area, can go to Pennsylvania and buy them cheaper."
Gov. Christie pocket vetoed a bill in 2016 that would have raised the age statewide to 21.
The state's statewide minimum age is 19 but individual communities can set their own age.
New Jersey municipalities with a minimum tobacco purchase age of 21
- East Rutherford
- Fair Lawn
- Highland Park
- Union City
- West Orange
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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