Sorry, teens — NJ smoking age going up to 21 in just days
TRENTON — Attention young smokers: In just a few days, many of you won't be able to legally buy cigarettes.
New Jersey's smoking age is increasing the minimum age to purchase cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21 — up from 19 — under a bill Gov. Chris Christie signed earlier this year. The restriction goes into effect Nov. 1 — a week from Wednesday.
“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 when he signed the bill in July.
Christie has said his own mother died from the effects of smoking.
And "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 said at the time.
New Jersey is just one of three states with a smoking age of 21 — California and Hawaii already have such restrictions in effect.
Brian Shott, New Jersey director of government relations for the American Cancer Society, told New Jersey 101.5 earlier this year smoking contributes to around 11,800 adult deaths a year in New Jersey.
And Karen Blumenfeld, executive director for New Jersey Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy, said 90 to 95 percent of people start before age 21.
When Christie OK'd the bill, he 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.
But the state Department of Health says it will be able to deal with any increase in demand.
“The Department of Health strongly encourages everyone to quit smoking and there are many ways to do that including medication, patches, gum and counseling,” spokesman Donna Leusner said earlier this year. “The department strongly believes the governor’s actions are important to discourage and prevent young people from smoking.”
New Jersey has the third-lowest rate of adult smoking in the United States, 13.5 percent. Its youth smoking rate is 8.2 percent – even with a smoking age of 19.
The state’s NJ Quitline counseling service – (866) 657-8677 – offers callers a free, two-week supply of nicotine patches. Last year the Quitline got nearly 15,000 calls, and 4,300 got counseling and patches.
People can also get support in quitting by signing up for the Smokefree Teen text message program, available as an app or at teen.smokefree.gov, which provides encouragement, advice and tips though phones and smartphones.
— Based on previous reporting by Michael Symons
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