New Jersey could have been the second state to raise the smoking age to 21. The state legislature passed a bill that would fine retailers up to $1,000 if they sold cigarettes or e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21, though the bill would not have punished the underage smokers themselves. However, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill earlier this week, leaving 19 and 20 year olds with the option of buying cigarettes if they so choose.
Though the bill had bipartisan support, not everyone was in favor of it. Military veteran groups criticized the bill, arguing that service members who sacrifice their lives should have the right to choose to smoke. Others were concerned that raising the smoking age would cost New Jersey millions in tax revenue.
Supporters of the bill cited studies showing an increase in smoking among young adults. According to recent studies, 12 percent of middle schoolers are smoking, up from just 2 percent in 2011. A study by the National Academy of Sciences also found that raising the smoking age to 21 would reduce smoking rates among teens by 12 percent, which could prevent more than 200,000 premature deaths.
The first state to raise the smoking age to 21 was Hawaii and many other states are set to potentially follow in Hawaii’s footsteps. There is also a proposal to change the smoking age to 21 on a federal level, which would make Christie’s veto irrelevant.
The current legal age for tobacco purchases is 19 in New Jersey. Businesses who sell cigarettes to underage patrons could face major legal consequences. If you are charged with a crime in New Jersey, you need a lawyer who is experienced in navigating the choppy waters of the criminal justice system. Contact the Rosenblum Law Firm toll-free at 888-815-3649 for a free consultation.