Codey Acts To Raise Tobacco Age To 21

Introduces Legislation Increasing From 19 To 21 The Legal Age For Purchasing Tobacco Products In New Jersey

TRENTON – Senator Richard J. Codey on Monday introduced legislation that would increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21, saying the change will save lives by reducing the number of young people who become addicted smokers and, in the process, save lives.

“We are sending a message to young people that ‘to smoke is no joke,’” said Senator Codey who, as Governor, signed into law legislation raising the age from 18 to 19 and bills banning indoor smoking and smoking in college dorms. “It’s during the formative years between 18 and 21 that many casual smokers become addicted. This will buy them time to make a more mature decision about a habit that becomes harder to break the longer they smoke.”

Senator Codey cited statistics on the negative impact of tobacco products. According to health organizations an estimated 400,000 smokers in Americans die prematurely and another 50,000 non-smokers die from second-hand smoke. Direct health care costs and indirect costs to the economy from tobacco use add up to $157 billion a year. That calculates to $7.17 in costs to society for each pack of cigarettes.

Senator Codey pointed to the experience in Needham, Massachusetts, as evidence that the higher age reduces smoking among the young. After the legal age was raised to 21 in 2005, there was a 12.9 percent drop in smoking among teenagers over seven years.

The penalty would be on the seller not the purchaser, under Senator Codey’s bill, with civil fines of $250 for the first offense, $500 for a second violation and $1,000 for subsequent violations, as well as the potential loss of the license to sell tobacco products.