New Jersey will be the first state in the nation to ban flavored vaping products, which critics warn are used to hook teens and students on nicotine.
Senate Bill 3265, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law on Tuesday, bans the sale of most flavored of electronic cigarettes.
“Research shows that flavored electronic smoking devices and products, such as mint, candy, fruit, and chocolate, are extremely appealing, especially to children,” Murphy said in a statement accompanying the bill-signing.
The ban goes into effect in three months, giving business owners time to transition to the new restrictions.
Murphy also signed a measure that would bar the use of coupons and other price rebates for the purchase of tobacco and e-cigarette products. The ban extends to flavors except for menthol, mint and wintergreen. Fines can be as much as $2,000 for businesses that violate it, and repeat offenders could be subject to a three-year license suspension after a third offense and total license revocation after a fourth offense.
The bill was heavily opposed by vape shop owners and former cigarette-smokers who testified that a ban could lead many users back to cigarettes and put many local establishments out of business.
Murphy did, however, pocket-veto a measure that would have dramatically ramped up restrictions for businesses that sell vaping products: Assembly Bill 5922.
“It is a lost opportunity to take constructive action to counter the vaping crisis and to protect against the dangerous health effects of e-cigarettes and other vaping products,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Vitale, D-19th District, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said in a Tuesday statement.
“The bill contained common-sense measures to keep these products out of the hands of young people by cracking down on illicit, underage sales by bad actors who exploit their vulnerability to the allure of e-cigarettes and other vaping products,” Vitale added. “Many of the action items derived from the governor’s own task force on vaping.”
Murphy argued in a Tuesday statement that the legislation proposed an “unnecessarily complicated” tax scheme “which favors certain players in the marketplace,” as well as “inconsistent treatment of different vaping retailers and manufacturers.”
Legislative sponsors said they hope banning most flavored products will stymie the use of vaping by persons under 21 years old, whom they accuse the tobacco industry of targeting with such product offerings.
“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 and Senior Services Committee, said in a Tuesday statement from the governor’s office. “Getting flavored vaping products off the market will protect our youth. If we don’t, we will have another generation of young people addicted to nicotine when we were so close to reducing widespread dependency on this chemical,” he added.
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 supporters 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 because the loss of tax revenue from their ban could be significant.