TRENTON — A bill banning the sale of the tobacco products and electronic smoking devices at pharmacies is headed for a vote by the state Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex, said that it is "antiethical" that pharmacies sell tobacco and smoking products when they are making and dispensing medicines to save lives.

The bill also prohibits the sale of cigars, cigarillos or pipes and any cartridge or other component of e-cigarette device or related product.

Vitale said research suggests that banning tobacco sales in pharmacies can reduce "tobacco retail outlet density," which is associated with higher rates of youth tobacco usage as well as racial and economic disparities in tobacco use.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive of the anti-smoking group New Jersey Advisors on Smokefree Policy, said the sale of cigarettes and vaping devices alongside products to help people stop smoking can make for a hard decision.

"They go in to buy these smoking cessation products to try to help them quit smoking and then right next to the product is a product that's addicting them," Blumenfeld said. "They're looking at both these products and they have to make a choice."

The owner of any of business that violates the ban faces a $250 fine for a first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1,000 after that.

The bill exempts supermarkets and department stores that also have pharmacies in them. Previous versions of the bill had stalled in the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee because they had not included that exemption.

CVS has not sold tobacco in its stores nationwide since 2014 while Wegmans stopped selling them in 2008.

Massachusetts has had a similar statewide ban since the end of 2018.

Michael Symons contributed to this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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