Lawmakers are ready to vote Jan. 13 in both chambers on banning most flavored vaping products and increasing restrictions on electronic cigarettes, amid growing nationwide 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. It was approved on Jan. 9 by both the Assembly Appropriations and Senate Budget and Appropriations committees.
We’re seeing dramatic increases… among high school students. These flavors, in particular, are designed to attract youths.
– Assemblyman Herb Conoway
Both committees also approved measures 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, creating statewide manufacturing standards for vaping products, subjecting any sales to strict database tracking by state health and law enforcement officials, and barring the use of any coupons for the purchase of vaping products.
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.
Several opponents of the Legislature’s proposed flavor ban said on Thursday they were perplexed that the ban on menthol was abruptly pulled. But Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, told reporters that the menthol restrictions will likely move forward as part of budget talks.
S3265 calls for fines of up to $2,000 against businesses that violate the ban, a three-year license suspension after a third offense and total license revocation after a fourth offense.
Legislative sponsors said they hope that 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.
“We’re seeing dramatic increases… among high school students,” Assemblyman Herb Conoway, D-7th District, who chairs the Assembly Health Senior Services Committee, said Thursday afternoon. “These flavors, in particular, are designed to attract youths.”
Under the changes rolled out Thursday, 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.
Still, dozens of vape shop owners and former cigarette-smokers testified against the ban, arguing that it could lead many users back to cigarettes and put many local establishments out of business.
Danish Igbal, president of the New Jersey Vapor Rights Coalition, said that the passage of S3265 could jeopardize 250 businesses that employ nearly 4,000 people.
The measure was also opposed by the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society, who both argued Thursday it was not strict enough to curtail e-cigarette usage.
Gov. Phil Murphy has indicated 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.