In a shocking reversal from last year’s veto, New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie signed a Tobacco 21 bill into law on Friday, July 21st. The new law raises the purchase age for all tobacco and vapor products from 19 to 21 and will take effect on November 1, 2017. New Jersey is the third state following Hawaii and California to enact a Tobacco 21 law.
While the list of local governments, and now states, that have adopted or are considering a Tobacco 21 policy is growing, new evidence supporting the claims of proponents is not moving at a similar pace. Proponents still point to a small town in Massachusetts and one study conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as support. But neither the case of Needham, MA or the IOM report account for the availability of low-risk vapor products and neither compare the effectiveness of raising the age to 21 to adopting a harm reduction strategy. For governments to accept such little evidence as satisfactory support clearly shows a bias and a deference to emotional arguments in favor of prohibition over harm reduction.
Indeed, many of us have experienced the early loss of a loved one due to smoking–including Governor Christie–and by year’s end, millions more will lose someone close to them. But the solution to this problem is not in taking reduced harm options away from people. Tobacco 21 laws are dangerous and have the potential to do more harm than good by prohibiting sales of low-risk, smoke-free products to adult consumers. Governor Christie knows that a one-size-fits-all policy is failing in the area of opioid addiction. He has no reason to believe that relegating smokers to traditional quit methods will have a positive outcome.
The new law in New Jersey is expected to create a $4-$8 million hole in the state’s budget. Any public health gains that might translate to savings will be minimal at best and will not be realized for decades.
Legislatures in Maine and Oregon have also sent Tobacco 21 bills to their governors for signing. Maine’s Governor, Paul LePage, has wisely vetoed the Tobacco 21 legislation.
This article was originally published at CASAA
Author: Alex Clark