State lawmakers plan to take action against vaping by banning flavored vaping liquids and overhauling taxes and fees on e-cigarettes in an attempt to curb the increasing popularity of vapes among children.
Bills have been introduced to ban flavored vaping products, increase the sales tax on e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, and allow state regulators to track sales, collect increased fines and fees and conduct undercover enforcement at vape stores. Similar versions of the bills will be heard this week by health committees in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, who can make changes to them and are expected to pass them along for another vote.
Though the proposals aim to slow the popularity of vaping, they would also stop the sale of menthol cigarettes in the Garden State. The effort comes as states and the federal government are grappling with how to respond to an increasing number of respiratory illnesses and deaths connected to vaping and e-cigarettes.
In 24 states, 39 people have died from lung injuries associated with vaping — including one in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition to a ban on flavored vaping liquids, the bills would:
– double the tax on liquid nicotine to $0.20 per fluid milliliter and establish a 20 percent tax on non-disposable electronic smoking devices
– limit nicotine in vaping liquid to 2 percent
– double penalties for selling tobacco and vaping products to people under 21, to $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second offense, and $2,000 for a third or later offense
– prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes that look like anything other than vapes or cigarettes, for example, those that look like pens and flash drives or are hidden in clothing
– require vaping retailers to be licensed and increase the fee to $500; allows municipalities to also require permits
– require retailers to put in place electronic verification that tobacco and vape customers are at least 21 years old
– require the Department of the Treasury to track the sale of all vaping products for enforcement and analysis purposes
E-cigarettes were initially sold as a way to help people curb nicotine addiction and cigarette smoking. But the industry has been scrutinized for furthering nicotine use and marketing its products to children through the use of flavors like watermelon, vanilla and chocolate chip cookie.
But according to the CDC, 1.5 million more children used e-cigarettes in 2018 than in 2017. And since the task force delivered its policy recommendations, New Jersey health department officials have identified 21 additional cases of vaping related illness.
The CDC says 1,300 people die each day from smoking cigarettes, while vaping advocates say a ban will not only harm their businesses but also encourage people to return to cigarette use.
Legislative leaders in both houses and Gov. Phil Murphy have expressed urgency in addressing vaping as a public health issue.