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New Jersey Takes Historic Action to Tackle Youth E-Cigarette Epidemic, Needs to Crack Down on Menthol Cigarettes Next

Statement of Laurie Rubiner, Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 14, 2020

UPDATE: On Jan. 21, 2020, Gov. Murphy signed into law the bill prohibiting the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New Jersey Legislature yesterday delivered tremendous and historic wins for kids over the tobacco industry by voting to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, among other things. This legislation is critical to ending the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic and stopping e-cigarettes from addicting a generation of kids. Gov. Murphy is expected to sign the legislation, which will make New Jersey the second state to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes

In addition to ending the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, the legislature:

  • Prohibited the sale of all tobacco products in pharmacies (the second statewide ban in the nation, following Massachusetts);
  • Prohibited the use of coupons and other price promotions for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (the first prohibition of its kind in any state); price reductions make tobacco products more appealing and affordable to kids;
  • Provided for coverage of comprehensive tobacco cessation benefits under Medicaid.

These actions on e-cigarettes are urgently needed, particularly in light of the Trump Administration’s recent guidance, which left thousands of flavored products on the market. States have no time to waste as the youth e-cigarette epidemic has gone from bad to worse – and New Jersey’s action to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes is just what we need. Driven by the steep rise of youth use of e-cigarettes, the percentage of high school students who use tobacco products is at its highest level in 19 years. This year, 31.2% of high school students and 12.5% of middle school students – 6.2 million kids altogether – used some type of tobacco product, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The number of kids who use e-cigarettes has skyrocketed to over 5.3 million, including more than one in four (27.5%) high school students, and recent trends indicate that nearly 5,000 more kids start using e-cigarettes each day.

The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic – 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month, and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use. The time for waiting is over. Policymakers across the nation must act now to stop Juul and other e-cigarette companies from targeting our nation’s kids with flavored, nicotine-loaded products that are addicting a new generation and threaten decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use.

While we applaud the New Jersey Legislature for passing these bills, we strongly urge them to tackle the serious problem of other flavored tobacco products – especially menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars – in the upcoming legislative session. There is no reason for further delay. It’s time to stop tobacco companies from targeting and addicting kids with flavored products once and for all.

Flavored products have long been a favorite tobacco industry strategy for targeting kids. In addition to e-cigarettes, more than half of youth smokers – including seven out of ten African-American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes. The evidence shows that menthol cigarettes make it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. Legislation ending the sale of menthol would help halt the tobacco industry’s long and harmful history of targeting kids and African Americans with menthol cigarettes.

New Jersey’s action provides a major boost for the growing national movement to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. In November, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes. We thank those who have led and supported the New Jersey effort, notably Senate President Steve Sweeny and Speaker Craig Coughlin for their leadership, along with Senator Joe Vitale, Senator Shirley Turner and Assemblyman Herb Conaway as the lead sponsors.