Ever the health nut, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill on Friday that will raise the smoking age in New Jersey to 21 from the previous age of 19. New Jersey: The Health State, they’ll call it now. New Jersey: Clean Lung Land. These are good, right?
“By raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, we are giving young people more time to develop a maturity and better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place,” Christie said in a statement.
“My mother died from the effects of smoking, and no one should lose their life due to any addictive substance. Additionally, the less people who develop costly tobacco habits that can cause health problems, such as lung cancer, heart disease and developmental issues, the less strain there will be on our healthcare system,” he added.
The law will also apply to e-cigarettes, and violators will face a max fine of $1,000. Retailers are predictably upset, arguing that they will lose millions by being banned from selling cigarettes to 19 and 20 year-olds, plus additional losses on whatever sandwiches and drinks their young customers would have picked up along with their smokes.
The legislation makes New Jersey the third state in the country to raise the smoking age to 21, following in the steps of Hawaii and California. But as much as Christie professes to dislike smoking, he has also taken a lot of heat for cutting funding for programs designed to help people quit, NJ.com reports.
In 2016, a public health advocacy organization ranked New Jersey the worst state in the country for smoking deterrence, after it went five consecutive years without offering a single cent toward helping people quit.
Last year, Christie vetoed the bill that would raise the smoking age, so it’s not clear what changed between then and now. Maybe he’s using this as a last-ditch attempt to resuscitate his breathtakingly low popularity, but it seems to me there will always be a few other things about him that will spring to people’s minds first.