- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 22, 2017

Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill Friday banning the sale of tobacco products in New Jersey to anyone under the age of 21.

The Garden State will become the third in the nation to limit tobacco sales to individuals 21 and up when the law takes effect November 1, at which point vendors caught selling cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to customers will risk facing fines of up to $1,000.

“By raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, we are giving young people more time to develop a maturity and better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be, and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place,” Mr. Christie said in a statement.

“My mother died from the effects of smoking, and no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance,” the governor added. “Additionally, the less people who develop costly tobacco habits that can cause health problems, such as lung cancer, heart disease and developmental issues, the less strain there will be on our healthcare system.”

The legal age to buy cigarettes in most states is 18, but New Jersey had already banned tobacco sales to anyone under 19 starting in 2006. Cities including Princeton, Rutherford and Trenton, the state capital, have since passed local ordinances raising the legal age to 21, however, giving momentum to advocates endorsing the statewide increase signed by the governor Friday.

“Data surveys show that if individuals aren’t smokers by 21 years of age, they will most likely not start later in their lives,” said Democratic state Sen. Joseph Vitale, a sponsor of the bill. “Making it harder to buy cigarettes by raising the age to legally purchase them in New Jersey will help prevent our youth from becoming lifelong smokers and suffering the long-term effects of the habit.”

Another sponsor, fellow Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey, applauded the Republican governor for signing a bill endorsed by both parties alike.

“Finally after all these years we found something we agree on. I’m feeling the love from the Gov,” Mr. Codey said. “I’m excited for it, for the lives we save moving forward.”

Roughly 12 percent of New Jersey residents between 18 and 24 are smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking related illnesses kill about 11,800 adults in New Jersey each year, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Annual health care expenses related to smoking, meanwhile, cost New Jersey about $4 million annually, state Sens. Vitale and Codey said.

Opponents of the measure, including convenience store owners and other cigarettes vendors, said they expect to lose millions of dollars in annual revenue as a result of the age increase.

California and Hawaii are the only two other states to prohibit tobacco product sales to individuals under 21.

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