Fresh off New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s pocket veto of an increase in the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and other nicotine delivery devices in January, a second run at getting it passed has taken its first successful steps in the state assembly, as earlier this week, the Assembly Health and Senior Services committee approved the bill by a 10-3 vote.
The bill, which now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration, aims to increase the minimum purchase age from 19 to 21, something that only Hawaii has done to date. While it makes it illegal for someone under 21 to purchase tobacco products, it wouldn’t make possession or use of tobacco products by a person under 21 a crime. Retailers would be hit with fines of up to $1,000 should they sell to a minor repeatedly.
Several other states have active legislation seeking similar increases, though all are still fairly early in the legislative process, while Washington’s has been effectively killed after a budget analysis forecast that it would cost the state too much money in a time when cuts in revenue are being avoided.
Another anti-smoking measure that Christie vetoed in September of 2014 is also back in the early weeks of the current legislative session, as a bill seeks to ban smoking in the majority of state, county and municipal parks passed Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts committee by a 6-0 vote with one abstention. As for beaches, the bill would limit counties and cities to carving out no more than 15% of a beach as being non-smoking. The bill would forbid smoking in state, county and municipal parks while limiting county and municipal officials to setting aside no more than 15 percent of a public beach as a non-smoking area. When he vetoed it, Christie said that he was not “persuaded that a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all state ban on smoking at public parks and beaches is advisable at this time.”