TRENTON -- New Jersey one step closer to banning the sale and distribution of most flavored electronic smoking devices.
The state Assembly's health committee voted Monday to approve the bill, which would ban anyone from selling increasingly popular "vaping" products in flavors other than clove, menthol, and tobacco.
"Vaping" is the processes of pulling on an electronic smoking device that turns flavored liquid into vapor -- with hundreds of flavors, from honey to chocolate to cherry. Vape stores have popped up in storefronts across New Jersey and the rest of the country in recent years.
N.J.'s flavored vaping ban plan gains steam despite fiery protests
Current state law bars the sale or distribution of cigarettes that are flavored anything but clove, menthol, or tobacco. If passed by both houses of the state Legislature and then signed by the governor, this bill (S298/A3704) would add electronic smoking devices, cartridges, and liquid refills to the ban list.
If the measure becomes law, violators would face an initial fine of $250.
A state Senate panel approved the legislation last year after a tense hearing. Now, the full state Senate and Assembly would each have to pass the measure before it gets to Gov. Chris Christie's desk.
Sponsors say the goal of the proposed ban is to prevent the products from being targeted to young people, and thus possibly luring them into smoking.
Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), a co-sponsor and a physician by trade, said Monday that "going back to the days of 'Joe Camel,' we've seen how nicotine companies carefully market their products to young, impressionable consumers in the hopes of attracting life-long customers"
"The appeal of electronic smoking devices is just as bad, if not worse, because the products are available in almost every candy-like flavor imaginable," added Conaway, who chairs the Assembly's health committee. "From a public health perspective, it makes sense to extend the ban on flavored tobacco products to electronic smoking devices, as well."
But opponents of the proposed ban say e-cigarettes are healthier than cigarettes and can actually help people quit smoking. Plus, they say, barring the products would cause many shops to shutter.
The longterm effects of electronic smoking are still unknown, according to reports.
Meanwhile, the panel on Monday also approved a bill (A4620) that would prohibit the use of coupons and promotional offers for tobacco and vapor products.
"Despite bans on marketing tobacco and nicotine products to young people, they are still being exposed to promotional offers," said Conaway, who also sponsors that measure. "Banning discounts and promotions can help eliminate their curiosity and susceptibility to trying nicotine products, and consequently, becoming addicted."
Brent Johnson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.
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