Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-3rd District, said in Trenton on Thursday that the tax stamps used for regular cigarettes should be applied to e-cigarettes and other vaping products as a means to remove counterfeit electronic tobacco products from the market.
Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy also on Thursday announced recommendations and guidelines from the Electronic Smoking Device Task Force, including the imposition of a ban by the Legislature on the sale of flavored electronic smoking devices and products.
Sweeney said that making use of the existing tax stamp program would be an effective means of identifying the illegitimate products that health investigators believe are linked to vaping-related illnesses and deaths and keeping them away from consumers, especially young people. He said that the electronic verification tools already being used could be applied to vaping products, and a registry for vaping products could be modeled after the “cigarette directory” regulators already have.
“There has been a dramatic surge in the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products in an unregulated marketplace where the users don’t know what they are purchasing and what they are inhaling into their lungs,” said Sweeney. “All vaping products pose a danger, but the counterfeit substances and black market devices are acutely dangerous. And young people are often drawn to black market sales, putting them at even greater risk.”
E-cigarettes and vaping products were brought to the market without any regulatory process, Sweeney said, and the policies and procedures for these products are still evolving. At the same time, the use of electronic smoking devices among teens and young adults has surged.
Taking vapes to task
The Electronic Smoking Device Task Force was created by Executive Order No. 84 and directed to formulate a comprehensive strategy within 21 days to protect New Jersey residents from the hazards of electronic cigarettes.
“The recent spate of lung disease and deaths across the country due to electronic smoking device use is startling,” said Murphy. “My administration will act swiftly to implement the task force’s recommendations and we ask our legislative partners to do the same. We must work together to protect the health and safety of New Jersey’s youth.”
“From a public health perspective, nicotine, a chemical considered as addictive as heroin or cocaine, is highly addictive in any form,” said Acting New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, who chaired the Electronic Smoking Device Task Force. “Appealing to young people through flavored e-cigarettes must be stopped. Our overriding conclusion is that electronic smoking devices pose a threat to public health, particularly the health and well-being of youth.”
In addition to banning sales of flavored electronic smoking devices and products, recommendations outlined by the Task Force include increasing penalties for unauthorized sales, restricting online sales, increasing compliance buys, prohibiting advertising and sale of covert products, strengthening point-of-sale practices, ensuring uniform regulation of the marketplace, developing a centralized state retailer registry, and increasing interagency collaboration
The Task Force also recommended further study and consideration of the following proposals: development of a rapid response team in the Department of Health, expansion of the tax on vaping products, expansion of vapefactsnj.com to become a central repository, a requirement that retailers conduct electronic identification verification, the establishment of a trackable database for the sale of electronic cigarette devices, a potential menthol cigarette ban, the issuance of standing orders for tobacco cessation therapies, and a ban on electronic cigarettes with nicotine concentrations above 3 percent.