Christie raises NJ smoking age to 21 — Will this prevent new smokers?
TRENTON — New Jersey’s smoking age is being increased to 21 under one of 53 bills signed into law Friday by Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie also announced vetoes of 14 bills, including ones that would have increased welfare benefits, expanded paid family leave, boosted the minimum wage for transportation workers at Newark Liberty International Airport and imposed a new tax on home-sharing rentals like those brokered by Airbnb.
The minimum age to purchase cigarettes or e-cigarettes in New Jersey is currently 19. The new law increases it to 21 on the first day of the fourth month after Friday’s signing, which is Nov. 1.
In January 2016, Christie pocket vetoed a bill that would have raised the smoking age to 21 that was sent to him at the end of the last legislative session. This time, he signed it.
“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.
“My mother died from the effects of smoking, and no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance,” he said. “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.”
New Jersey joins California and Hawaii with a smoking age of 21, said Brian Shott, New Jersey director of government relations for the American Cancer Society.
“With this action Gov. Christie, the Assembly and the Senate have put New Jersey in the forefront of saving lives,” said Shott, who said smoking contributes to around 11,800 adult deaths a year in New Jersey.
“Clearly smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable disease and death, and with 90 to 95 percent of people starting before age 21, it’s imperative to reduce access to these products to that age range," said Karen Blumenfeld, executive director for New Jersey Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy.
“The governor and I have finally found an issue that we agree on – helping to save lives,” said Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, a former governor.
Christie conditionally vetoed a second smoking-related bill that would have committed 1 percent of revenues from cigarette taxes to anti-smoking programs. He recommended that the requirement be delayed until next year’s budget – the first under his successor.
Among the bills Christie signed was one putting a $125 million bond proposal before voters on the November ballot, with the proceeds used to expand and improve public libraries around the state.
Even after signing and vetoing the bills Friday, there are still 51 bills on Christie's desk awaiting action.
But Christie disposed of many of the most significant bills before he and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno leave the state at the same time next week to attend the Republican Governors Association summer meeting in Colorado, leaving Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, as acting governor.