New Jersey Raises Tobacco Age to 21 – It Will Protect Kids, Save Lives

Joint Statement by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Lourdes Health System & St. Francis Medical Center
July 21, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. / NEW JERSEY – With Gov. Chris Christie signing the bill into law today, New Jersey has joined the growing list of states and communities prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. In taking this bold step, New Jersey will prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

New Jersey provides another significant boost for the growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21. Tobacco 21 laws have also been enacted by California, Hawaii and at least 255 cities and counties (PDF), including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis and both Kansas Cities. The Oregon Legislature approved a similar bill earlier this month, and Gov. Kate Brown has indicated she will sign the measure into law. A tobacco 21 bill also awaits the governor’s signature in Maine, and statewide measures remain under consideration in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

We applaud Gov. Christie and the New Jersey Legislature for their leadership in enacting this new law. In signing the bill, Gov. Christie rightly noted that raising the tobacco age gives young people a “better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place.” He added, “My mother died from the effects of smoking, and no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance.” Well said, Governor.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. Increasing the tobacco age will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. In New Jersey alone, tobacco companies spend over $175 million a year to market their deadly and addictive products. This legislation will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.

A 2015 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine (now called the National Academy of Medicine) concluded that increasing the tobacco age to 21 will significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans and costing the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In New Jersey, tobacco kills 11,800 people and costs over $4 billion in health care expenses each year. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 143,000 kids alive today in New Jersey will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.

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About Tobacco-Free Kids  The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. We work to save lives by advocating for public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

About Lourdes Health System The Lourdes Health System is one of the region’s leading healthcare providers, recognized nationally for excellence in clinical care and service to the community. The system has two general acute care hospitals, located in Camden and Willingboro, New Jersey, and a growing network of ambulatory care facilities and physician practices located throughout southern New Jersey. A major teaching affiliate of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lourdes provides a full range of medical, surgical, obstetrical, behavioral health, rehabilitation and long-term acute care services. The Lourdes Cardiovascular Institute is recognized nationally for excellence in heart care. Lourdes Health System has an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), Nursing School; comprehensive Wellness Services; and LIFE program for All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly. Lourdes is well-known for its outreach services, providing care to those most in need. Lourdes is a member of Trinity Health, a health system serving residents in 21 states.

About St. Francis Medical Center St. Francis Medical Center was founded in 1874 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia as Trenton’s first hospital. Today, it is an acute care teaching hospital with more than 300 medical staff physicians representing all specialties and a member of the Trinity Health System. Known as the Heart Hospital, St. Francis is Mercer County’s only comprehensive cardiac surgery program. Our advanced and comprehensive cardiovascular services include the new hybrid lab which combines the imaging capabilities of a cardiac catheterization lab with the sterile environment of a conventional operating room (OR). Other programs include the Regional Cancer Center; Compassionate Care Hospice; Behavioral Health; an accredited Sleep Disorders Center; and a designated primary stroke center. LIFE St. Francis, A Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), was the first program in the State of New Jersey. Additionally, the Wound Care Center, features a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber and the hospital has a newly renovated walk in clinic, an Imaging Center featuring a 64-Slice CT Scanner and offers digital mammography. St. Francis is also home to the School of Nursing and School of Radiological Technology in addition to several primary care and specialty practices known as LIFE Care Physicians.