⚫ Lawmakers approved three measures that target youth vaping

⚫ One proposal would increase fines on retailers who sell to underage customers

⚫ Illegal vapes are coming to New Jersey from overseas

Flavored vape products can't be sold in New Jersey, and tobacco may not be sold to anyone under the age of 21.

But how well are these rules being enforced?

With the hope that stricter rules will force retailers to think twice before doing something illegal, Garden State lawmakers advanced a couple measures aimed at making a dent in a surge of vaping among youth.

"I think it's really downplayed that vaping, in general, is so much more addictive than cigarette smoking is," Tom Collins, a retired commander from the Camden County Metro Police Department, told the Assembly Health Committee on Monday.

Approved vape-sale bills

One measure that received the green light from the panel would require that tobacco and vape product retailers be inspected twice yearly. Specifically, officials would be looking for the illegal sale of products with characterizing flavors, which New Jersey has banned since 2020 in an effort to limit the chances of teens and pre-teens becoming hooked on the products.

Experts say New Jersey has been dealing with a flood of illegal flavored products from overseas. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration busted five shops after issuing a warning letter to each one and seeing no effort to comply with the state's law.

Another measure advanced by the Assembly panel increases fines for retailers who sell tobacco products to underage customers.

Collins said current penalties in New Jersey are "laughable" — they're just seen by retailers as the price of doing business.

"They'll pay the nominal fee ... to keep operating and to keep poisoning our children with the illicit flavored vapes coming from China," Collins said.

Both proposed laws have the support of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store, Automotive Association, which says that stricter rules should create a more level playing field for businesses.

"Businesses who are willing to ignore the law wind up making a profit at the expense of the honest operators out there," said Eric Blomgren, director of government affairs for NJGCA.

During the same hearing, the Assembly Health Committee advanced a proposed law that would direct the Department of Education and the Department of Health to develop vaping awareness campaign guidelines for school districts and colleges.

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