Restrictions on smoking became even more stringent in New Jersey Wednesday after officials enacted a law raising the minimum purchasing age on electronic cigarettes and tobacco.
New Jersey joined only three other states that require a person to be 21 before they can legally buy products containing tobacco or nicotine, something critics slam as “personally enriching hypocrisy” on the part of state lawmakers. Democratic Sens. Richard Codey and Joseph Vitale spearheaded the effort, which Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed into law July 1, claiming it will cut down on the number of teens who experiment with tobacco, reports New Jersey Patch.
Along with traditional tobacco, the law will also block access to vapor products, despite ample research showing e-cigarettes drastically reduce the harm caused by combustible tobacco. Christie argued in July the law will give “young people more time to develop a maturity” to make better choices regarding their health.
“While declaring the law necessary because those under 21 need more time to mature before understanding the choice they make, these same lawmakers certainly think 18-year-olds are mature enough to weigh issues and arrive at an intelligent vote on who they want to lead and who will shape the future for everyone,” Audrey Silk, the founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (CLASH), told New Jersey Patch. “No one is more resourceful than that age group when it comes to getting what they want. You have to wonder how deep heads are buried in the sand.”
While public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices.
Public health officials at the state and local levels across the country continue to spread the debunked narrative that smoking alternatives like vaping, which they claim are increasing in popularity with kids, will serve as a “gateway” to regular tobacco use. Nationally, the number of teens using any tobacco product declined from 4.7 million to 3.9 million and the number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million in 2016.
Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of American smokers quit combustible tobacco. Roughly 2.62 million former smokers were using a vape in 2016.
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