New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill this Friday that increases the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 19 to 21. “By raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, we are giving young people more time to develop a maturity and better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place,” Christie said in a statement.
Gov. Christie had been subjected to severe criticism in the past for cutting state funding for smoking that encourage individuals to quit smoking. However, this year Christie seems to be determined to turn things around. Not only did he include $686,000 in state funds to be spent on research and programs that can help with smoking cessation, but also introduced a bill that would raise the smoking age to 21.
New Jersey became the third state to take an action to prohibit the sale of tobacco products for individuals under the age of 21, as, Gov. Chris Christie announced “no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance.” Christie argued that the legislation would promote a reduction in smoking-related health issues and would help lower healthcare costs and “the less strain there will be on our healthcare system.”
“My mother died from the effects of smoking, and no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance. Additionally, the less people who develop costly tobacco habits that can cause health problems, such as lung cancer, heart disease and developmental issues, the less strain there will be on our healthcare system,” he added.
Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), a supporter of the bill expressed his content with Christie for signing a bill he sponsored back in 2013. “Finally after all these years we found something we agree on. I’m feeling the love from the Gov.,” he said. “I’m excited for it, for the lives we save moving forward.”
On the other hand, researchers at the Cato Institute – a pro-liberty think tank – argued that the most important step in implementing a change for the greater good has very little to imposing restriction of youth being able to purchase tobacco products from stores and argued that “very few teens buy cigarettes at a retail outlet; the overwhelming majority (95 percent) get their tobacco from friends or family.”
“There’s an easy way to check this: If easier retail access to tobacco were a cause of increased smoking, then you’d expect to find less youth smoking where access to tobacco was more tightly controlled — but the real-world evidence says otherwise,” they added. “The widespread restrictions on accessibility in California, for example, have largely failed to shift youth smoking levels.”
However, Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisors on Smoke free Policy, expressed that this move will contribute towards a decline in smoking for people of all ages.
“Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death. By reducing access of tobacco products, fewer young people will start smoking and their quality of life will increase,” she said. “Plus, state health-care costs related to smoking should decline.”
Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), another sponsor of the bill highlighted that an estimate of about 700 children under the age of 18 are turning into smokers each day and that one-third of these can die due to the dangers of smoking. “Making it harder to buy cigarettes by raising the age to legally purchase them in New Jersey will help prevent our youth from becoming lifelong smokers and suffering the long-term effects of the habit,” he said.
The law also imposes a prohibition on the sales of e-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 21, with the violators being subjected to a maximum fine of $1,000. While, a loss of up to $16.2 million in sales tax is noted by prohibiting the 19-year-olds to purchase tobacco products. However, it is to be noted that retailers would be adversely impacted by the rule, as they argue that the law could cause their industry lose millions by not only being banned to sell tobacco products to 19 and 20-year-old, but would also experience a loss in the sales of sandwiches, candy and drinks that these young adults would purchase along with their pack of cigarettes.