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Codey Says Boosting Tobacco Age To 21 Will Save Lives

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

TRENTON – Senator Richard J. Codey announced on Thursday his intention to push to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21, saying the change will save lives, curtail the assortment of illnesses associated with smoking and reduce health care costs.

“We are sending a message that to smoke is no joke,” said Senator Codey. “Research shows that a large majority of casual smokers become addicted between the ages of 18 and 21. If we can limit access to tobacco products during those formative years it will buy them time that could save their lives. They can make more mature decisions about smoking with a better understanding of all the potential consequences for themselves and others around them.”

Senator Codey announced his intention to introduce legislation to ban the sale of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to anyone under 21 at a news conference in New York City today with City Council President and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, who is advocating for the same law in New York City.

As Governor in 2006, Senator Codey signed into law legislation raising the age from 18 to 19. He also signed the Smoke-Free Air Act, which banned smoking in indoor public places, and a law prohibiting smoking in college dormitories.

“The facts and figures are devastating,” said Senator Codey. “Each and every year 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 for each pack of cigarettes.”

The penalty would be on the seller, 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 of the age requirement.

Senator Codey pointed to the experience in Needham, Massachusetts, where the legal age was raised to 21 in 2005, resulting in a 12.9 percent drop in smoking among teenagers over seven years.