Senate Health Committee Acts on Bills to Counter Vaping Crisis, Curb Tobacco Use

Measures Focus on Safeguards for Young People

Trenton – A series of bills to counter the vaping crisis and better protect against the health effects of tobacco products were advanced by the Senate Health Committee today. The four bills – which emphasize safeguards for young people – would ban the sale of flavored vaping products, impose strict regulations of vape shops, prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and increase penalties for underage sales of vaping and tobacco products.

  • One bill, S-3265, would outlaw the sale and distribution in the state of flavored e-cigarettes, other flavored electronic smoking devices and related products. (Turner/Codey/Vitale)
  • Another bill, S-1947, would ban the sale and distribution of menthol cigarettes in New Jersey by adding menthol and clove cigarettes to the current prohibition against flavored cigarettes. (Vitale)
  • An additional measure, S-4223 (attached), would strengthen regulations of vape shops, including required licenses for any business to sell electronic smoking devices or liquid nicotine and establish a tracking system for vaping products sold in New Jersey. (Sweeney)
  • Also approved was S-4224 (attached), which increases the penalties to retailers who are caught selling tobacco and vaping products to anyone under age 21, including doubled fines. (Vitale)

“The lack of adequate regulations and the absence of real oversight has allowed a surge in the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products and the health consequences have been severe, especially for young people,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “In fact, the increase in the use of tobacco products by adolescents, teenagers and young adults has been fueled by e-cigarettes and other vaping products. We have an immediate responsibility to control, restrict and even ban these products that create a serious risk to the health and safety of their users, especially our youth.”

Senator Sweeney’s regulatory bill (S-4223) would require a license for any business selling vapor products, including liquid nicotine cartridges and electronic smoking devices. It would also require the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to maintain a tracking database of all vapor products made available for sale in New Jersey.

“Youth tobacco use was declining for decades before e-cigarettes, and especially flavored vaping products, entered the market. Today, one in five high school students use vaping products. That is both astronomical and unacceptable,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “There is no place on our shelves for any flavored tobacco products that lure our youth into a lifetime of addiction, including menthol, which has plagued the African-American community for decades. Big tobacco has spent years skirting regulation and dangerously preying on our most vulnerable communities, but these policies will provide a desperately needed defense to their pursuit.”

Senator Vitale’s legislation banning the sale of menthol cigarettes (S-1947) would update current state law to reflect the federal ban on clove-flavored cigarettes, and prohibit the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes, an action that could reduce the prevalence of nicotine addiction and cancer.

The cooling agent in menthol cigarettes, like flavored cigarettes, masks the harshness of cigarette smoke, making the product more appealing to first-time smokers or young adults, according to the FDA. Data also indicates that menthol in cigarettes is associated with greater addiction and that the harm is more acute for African Americans, who are targeted by tobacco companies.

“The rapid increase in vaping’s popularity among middle and high schoolers is deeply troubling, especially given their lack of understanding as to what it is they are putting into their bodies,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “By banning flavored vaping products, we can discourage our youth from taking up this dangerous habit and reduce its prevalence in our homes and schools.”

The bill (S-3265) banning flavored electronic smoking products would prohibit the sale, offer for sale, and distribution of electronic smoking devices, cartridges, or other components of the devices or other related products, including liquid nicotine, that have a “characterizing flavor.”

“Flavored vaping products entice young people and are responsible for the alarming surge in youth vaping,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex). “It’s a marketing ploy to get them addicted at a young age, when they are more susceptible and more vulnerable, physically and socially. This is action is needed and overdue.”

Senator Vitale’s “age and access” bill (S-4224) would help protect young people by increasing penalties for retailers who are caught selling tobacco and vaping products to anyone below 21 and doubling the fines those businesses must pay. It would also require electronic age verification for the sale of vapor and tobacco products. Any vaping products sold would have to be registered with the FDA, a measure meant to prevent the sale of backroom-concocted products, that could be infused with dangerous substances.

The Committee votes were: S-3265, 8-1; S-1947, 7-2; S-4223, 6-1-2; S-4224, 7-1-1.