Vitale Statement On Increasing Age From 18 to 19 To Buy Cigarettes

Senator Says Added Year May Dissuade Smokers from Starting

TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement regarding Committee approval, by a vote of 6-0 with one abstention, of a bill he sponsored with Governor Codey to increase the age at which vendors can legally sell cigarettes from 18 to 19:

“The most sure-fire way to avoid any one of the myriad of health risks attached to smoking is never to start.

“The logic is flawless, but so many of our State’s kids cannot see past the peer pressure of high school to realize just what a risk they’d be taking by lighting up. They only know that on the school yard, the ‘cool kids’ are the ones who smoke.

“However, we’re hoping that a year removed from high school will serve to educate them on the realities — that smoking is an expensive, foul-smelling habit that will most likely see them dead long before their time from respiratory illness or cardiac arrest.

“Separated from the throngs of public opinion that is today’s high school, we’re confident our kids will make the right choice, and avoid the trap of tobacco and nicotine addiction. They will live healthier and longer lives, smoke-free.

“We would be naive in thinking this legislation might absolutely block kids from trying cigarettes out before the legal age to buy them. However, we hope that older smokers will be more responsible, and we hope to make it harder for underage smokers to get their hands on a pack.

“A year may not seem like a long time in the grand-scheme of things, but in the year between high school and life beyond, our kids begin to take shape into the people they will become. We’re hoping that those people will be non-smokers, and by giving them an added year of wisdom, we will hopefully better prepare them to say no to smoking.

“One year isn’t a long time, but in the war against nicotine addiction, we hope it makes the difference.”