Gov. Phil Murphy is set to decide on a host of measures this month that would ban most flavored vaping products and ramp up restrictions on electronic cigarettes, amid a growing national public health concern stemming from thousands of vaping-related illnesses and dozens of deaths.
The proposals would restrict how people can buy flavored vaping products and e-cigarettes, how businesses can sell them, and the types of products allowed in the flow of commerce.
One of the most contentious measures, Senate Bill 3265, enacts a ban on flavored vaping products except menthol, mint and wintergreen. Fines can be as much as $2,000 for businesses that violate the ban, and repeat offenders could be subject to a three-year license suspension after a third offense and total license revocation after a fourth offense.
Legislative sponsors said they hope banning most flavored vape products will stymie underage use (those under 21 years old) of vaping products, who they accuse the tobacco industry of targeting with these new product offerings.
The ban takes effect three months after the bill is signed, rather than immediately, so that business owners have time to transition to the new restrictions.
It was approved by the state Senate in a 22-15 on Monday and by the Assembly in a 53-11 vote with eight abstentions.
Murphy will have a week to decide on the package of vaping restrictions. He has signaled a willingness to sign the flavor ban and other restrictions after a task force he put together over the summer unveiled a host of recommendations to clamp down on e-cigarette usage.
Among the additional regulations lawmakers sent to Murphy, those measures call for increasing the licensing requirements for businesses that sell vaping products, boosting the penalties for those caught selling them to patrons under 21 years of age, and creating statewide manufacturing standards for vaping products.
Other restrictions outlined call for subjecting any sales to strict database tracking by state health and law enforcement officials, prohibiting the sale of vaping and tobacco products at any pharmacies, and barring the use of any coupons for the purchase of vaping products.
“Flavored products are designed to attract young people, which is one of the reasons why most traditional cigarette flavors were banned a decade ago,” Assemblyman Herb Conoway, D-7th District, who chairs the Assembly Health Senior Services Committee, said Monday in a statement. “Getting flavored vaping products off the market will protect our youth.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would ban fruit and mint-flavored vaping products, though the restrictions would not extend to any products that come in tanks or bottles, nor do they extend to menthol.
Lawmakers abruptly pulled the ban on menthol cigarettes, perplexing opponents and supports of the bill. But Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said that the menthol restrictions will likely move forward as part of budget talks.