TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Barbara Buono which would prohibit the sale of flavored cigarettes in New Jersey was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee by a vote of 6-0.
“Flavored cigarettes are an insidious marketing ploy from the tobacco industry to hook kids while they’re young,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “Just as we’re phasing out the cartoon spokespeople and high-profile movie placement that once targeted an early generation of potential smokers, flavored cigarettes are becoming more popular, and drawing in the next batch of customers. We need to block this threat before our kids are lured into a lifetime habit that will eventually kill them.”
“It’s no secret that the tobacco industry is constantly looking for the next big market, possibly because their faithful customers are dying off due to lung cancer and heart disease aggravated by smoking,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Flavored cigarettes are just one more tool in their marketing arsenal that’s looking to ensnare kids in the nicotine addiction before they know the health effects of smoking. When it comes to this latest tactic, the State needs to step up and disarm Big Tobacco before the harm is done.”
Under the bill, S-1400, New Jersey merchants would be prohibited from selling flavored cigarettes. The bill would impose a minimum penalty of $250 on a retailer for the first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1,000 for the third or subsequent violations. The bill also would provide that after the second violation, a municipality may recommend to the Division of Taxation that the retailer’s license to sell tobacco products be revoked.
“We’re setting up very strict penalties because smoking, and the health issues related to it, have become epidemic across the nation,” said Senator Buono. “We’ve made great strides in raising awareness of the negative health effects of smoking, but our progress is undercut by marketing initiatives seemingly designed to target children. We cannot give an inch in the battle to educate our kids as to the dangers of smoking, and allowing flavored cigarettes to stay on the shelves in New Jersey would be giving a mile.”
“By getting kids hooked at an earlier age, the tobacco industry is hoping to cultivate customers for life,” said Senator Vitale. “The earlier one starts smoking, the harder it is to quit, even if the smoker understands the health risks. Packaging cigarettes in a colorful candy shell does not negate the fatal effects of smoking, and we should not stand idly by while tobacco companies are luring more children into this deadly habit.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.