Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey are attempting to include electronic cigarettes in a proposal to ban smoking at all parks and beaches in the state.
Committees in both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature approved the proposal Monday, which would institute progressive fines against violators of the prohibition. Vapers and smokers who get caught in the designated area will face a $250 fine, which rises to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for every subsequent violation, reported WBGO.
Advocates of the restriction said it will help reduce littering and make state law more uniform, noting many localities already prohibit smoking at parks and beaches. Harm reduction advocates, however, are critical that officials included e-cigarettes in the proposal. (RELATED: E-Cigarette Giant Rips The ‘World Health Organization’s Silence On Vaping’)
“Cigarette butts attribute for 38 percent of litter in the United States,” Mark Anton, a leader of the New Jersey Vapor Rights Coalition, told WBGO. “Vaping does not contribute to this issue at all. And it doesn’t attribute or cause any second-hand issues like cigarette smoke would.”
Research published in the Journal of Aerosol Science in January shows that chemical levels in the vapor released from e-cigarettes are well below the safety limits suggested by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. The study determines that vaping is statistically 5,700 times less harmful to users than combustible cigarettes, drastically reducing the risk of developing smoking related illnesses.
The proposal in New Jersey will still allow smokers to use parking lots near parks and beaches. It also allows towns to designate up to 15 percent of their beaches as smoking areas.
Leaders in New Jersey are proposing a number of proposal targeting vapers in the state. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is advocating a 75-percent wholesale tax on all vaping products in his recent budget proposal, along with an increase of the wholesale tobacco tax from 30 to 68 percent.
“Whether they make it 75 percent or 40 percent or 30 percent, all it does is show they’d rather steal money than have people quit smoking,” Mike Moran, who opened a small business vape shop after using the products to quit smoking, recently told NJ.com. “And to me, that’s just insanity.”
Critics argue the taxes will force small businesses to close across the state, limiting access to harm reduction technologies for smokers. Vape advocates also fear the tax will threaten gains made in reducing the adult smoking rate, pushing users back to deadly combustible cigarettes.
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