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NJ Senator Wants To Raise Cigarette Buying Age To 21 [POLL/AUDIO]

Former New Jersey Governor and current State Senator Dick Codey plans to introduce a bill that would raise the minimum age for buying cigarettes in the Garden State from 19 to 21.

Carton of cigarettes.
Flickr user: Valerie Everett

As Governor, Codey was responsible for raising the age from 18 to 19 and for banning smoking in public buildings and dorm rooms.

“My bill raises the age that you can legally purchase cigarettes from 19 to 21,” says Codey. “It actually includes all tobacco products whether cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco it goes from 19 to 21.”

Retailers are worried that upping the minimum age will hurt their sales. That’s an argument Codey has heard many times and it does nothing to deter him.

“I can understand they’re concerned about loss of revenue,” says Codey. “They’re concerned about the loss of revenue. I’m concerned about the loss of life.”

Another argument that is as old as the hills is now being repeated by smokers’ rights advocates. They say that if someone only needs to be 18 to fight in the military, the government has no right to tell soldiers defending our country that they’re not old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes. That doesn’t sway Codey either.

“I reject that,” says Codey. “You can fight in the army, but we can tell you that you can’t drink until you’re 21. Now we’ll tell you that you can’t smoke before you’re 21.”

In an atypical move designed to show solidarity with lawmakers across the Hudson River, Codey and New Jersey Assemblyman Ruben Ramos unveiled their proposal at New York’s City Hall.

Are the Restrictions Unfair?

Many smokers’ rights advocates believe the restrictions are unfair and patronizing to an age group considered old enough to make such adult decisions as voting and serving in the military. Some retailers suggest that younger smokers may just turn to black-market merchants or to nearby areas with lower age limits.

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