New Jersey State Senator Richard Codey (D-Essex County) is leading an effort in the state’s legislature to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 19 to 21. The move comes fresh on the heels of New York City City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council members announcing that they will be proposing legislation to raise the city’s minimum age for tobacco to 21.
Codey’s proposed measure, S2810, along with its companion bill in the state assembly, A4135, would establish penalties for retailers who sell tobacco products to those individuals under the age of 21. It does not, however, create a penalty for a person under the age of 21 who attempts to buy tobacco.
The proposed age change comes as a follow-up to a move Codey made as governor of New Jersey, when in 2006 he raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 19. According to a report in The Star-Ledger, fines for retailers selling tobacco products to those under 19 range from $250 to $1,000, and can result in their retailer’s license to sell tobacco being revoked. Under current state law, it is not a crime for a person under 19 to be in possession of tobacco or to try and purchase tobacco products.
If passed, it would make New Jersey one of the first states to raise the age for tobacco purchase to 21, as a bill in the Texas State Senate has been seeking to do the same thing. In addition to New Jersey, Alaska, Alabama and Utah have their minimum age for tobacco purchase at 19, and a few counties in New York have it at 19 as well.
In Texas, State Senator Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) authored S.B. 313, which would raise the state smoking age to 21, the same as legal drinking age. That bill has been left pending in committee since February.
Oklahoma currently has a bill in the state house that would raise the minimum age to purchase and consume tobacco from 18 to 19 years of age. The state also had a bill in their 2012 legislative session that would gradually increase the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 by 2015.
The city of Chicago is also considering raising their minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 21, as City Alderman George Cardenas (12th) has expressed his support for New York City’s age increase and said he hopes to see Chicago follow suit.