New Jersey’s “21 and over” smoking age has officially begun. On Wednesday, the Garden State starts enforcing a new minimum age for buying tobacco products and electronic smoking devices: 21-years-old.
The new smoking age, which was signed into law in July and took effect on Nov. 1, will help “protect New Jersey youth from the deadly effects of tobacco use,” according to state officials.
Under the new regulations, smokers in New Jersey must be at least 21 to buy cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes or any other form of tobacco. Stores that sell tobacco products have to display bright yellow signs with the new legal age, and face fines of up to $1,000 for each violation as well as possible license suspension/revocation.
New Jersey residents previously had to be 19-years-old to purchase tobacco products.
According to state officials, New Jersey is the third in the nation to raise the smoking-purchase age to 21, following Hawaii and California. About 13.5 percent of New Jersey adults between ages 18 and 24 smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among New Jersey youth aged 12 to 18 years, 8.2 percent smoke.
For more information about the new smoking age, click here.
TOO YOUNG TO SMOKE, BUT OLD ENOUGH TO VOTE
People under the age of 21 are too immature to fully understand the dangers of smoking, supporters of the law argue.
“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,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said when he signed S-359/A-2320 into law on July 21.
New Jersey Department of Health officials wrote that “teens and young adults are at particular risk for nicotine addiction because their brains are still developing,” in an Oct. 27 news release.
“The younger someone starts to smoke, the more addicted they are likely to become and the harder it is to quit,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “By raising the purchase age, our youth will be less likely to start using tobacco and develop an addiction.”
But the immaturity argument gets an eye roll from some advocates such as Audrey Silk, the founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harbadment (CLASH), who bashed New Jersey’s new smoking age as “personally enriching hypocrisy” on the parts of legislators.
“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, not just them,” Silk said.
“Contrast that to the lifetime of anti-smoking messages this generation has been subjected to when arriving at that decision to smoke or not smoke,” Silk continued. “Yet these lawmakers chase their vote and would never consider rejecting a ballot by an 18-year-old that puts them over the top.”
Silk also cast doubt on how effective the new smoking age would be toward curbing youth tobacco use.
“No one is more resourceful than that age group when it comes to getting what they want,” Silk said. “You have to wonder how deep heads are buried in the sand.”
5 THINGS YOU CAN DO IN JERSEY BEFORE TURNING 21
- VOTE – New Jersey residents can register to vote at 17, but can’t actually vote until the age of 18.
- BE TRIED AS AN ADULT – Teens as young as 16-years-old have recently been tried as adults for crimes in New Jersey.
- DRIVE A CAR – New Jersey residents can get a student learner’s permit at 16, a probationary driver’s license when they’re 17, and an unrestricted driver’s license at the age of 18.
- SERVE ON A JURY – In New Jersey, residents must be at least 18 years of age on the date that they are scheduled to serve jury duty.
- BECOME A SOLDIER – To join the New Jersey Army National Guard, applicants must be at least 17-years-old.
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Originally published Nov 1, 2017.