After sitting untouched since its introduction to the Assembly in May 2014, a bill seeking to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and electronic smoking devices in New Jersey took its first steps forward yesterday.
A3254 cleared the Assembly’s Health and Senior Citizens Committee by an 11-1 vote on Thursday, and now heads to the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee for its second hearing, something it will have to clear quickly in order to make it to the Assembly floor for a full vote before the end of the current session on Jan. 11, 2016.
The bill provides for significant fines for retailers who sell tobacco or nicotine delivery products to minors, starting at fine $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each offense thereafter.
While the bill has a number of ardent supporters for the health benefits it seeks to provide, many opponents have also noted that it could cost the state a good deal of money–$19 million to be specific–according to an analysis by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services.
Numerous cities have already passed an age increase on their own, though a good number have also rejected it, many of which saying they would prefer to see it increased on a state level rather than city by city.
The companion bill in the New Jersey Senate was approved in June 2014. Should the full state legislature approve the bills, New Jersey would become the second state to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21-years-old, joining Hawaii, which approved an increase in June 2015 and which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.