New Jersey may boost age for tobacco purchases to 21

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A law that took effect New Year’s Day made Hawaii the first state to boost the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21, and New Jersey might not be far behind.

Before the legislative session ends next week, Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle said she’s hoping the New Jersey Assembly gives final approval to her bill raising the current minimum purchase age of 19.

“We have 15 municipalities in New Jersey that have already raised the smoking age,” said Huttle, D-Bergen. “Obviously, having every municipality in the state participating would be much more effective.”

Boosting the minimum purchase age to 21 would significantly reduce smoking, said John Schachter with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

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“It will help keep tobacco out of high schools when younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students — 95 percent of adult smokers started when they were 2,” he said. “If we can get you to 21 without being a smoker, you’re almost certainly never going to be a smoker.”

Supporters say the potential loss of state revenue from raising the purchase age would be far less than what’s spent on smoking-related health care costs.

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