Republican Gov. Chris Christie shot down a bill Tuesday that would have made New Jersey the second state in the nation to raise the smoking age to 21.
The bill, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature, would have hit retailers with a fine of up to $1,000 for selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 or e-cigarettes to anyone below the age of 20.
The lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, told CBS New York “we could have made New Jersey a leader, becoming just the second state to raise the age to 21, a move that is supported by an overwhelming majority of the public.”
“Instead, the governor is playing right into the hands of the tobacco industry, which prizes this key demographic.”
Small retailers and vape shop owners cheered the bill’s demise as the cost to businesses was expected to be substantial. The state’s finances would also have taken a hit to the tune of $16.2 million, according to the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services.
E-cigarette advocates have argued that raising the vaping age substantially could lead to more young people taking up smoking instead of avoiding tobacco altogether. An October 2015 Yale School of Public Health study showed smoking rates among 12- to 17-year-olds actually rose in states that banned e-cigarette sales to minors.
One of the study’s authors Abigail Friedman said, “such bans yield a statistically significant 0.9 percentage point increase in recent smoking in this age group, relative to states without such bans.”
The study controlled for smoking rates within states. (RELATED: Study: Laws Banning E-Cigarettes INCREASE Teen Smoking)
Measures to raise the smoking age to 21 have been introduced in eight other states as well as the District of Columbia.
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