By David Madden


By KYW’s David Madden

(TRENTON, NJ) — A bid to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco in New Jersey is one step away from the Governor’s desk. But time to get it passed is running short.

It’s an idea proponents have been pushing for some time. Bergen County Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle is the main sponsor of the bill. “It raises the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21,” she told KYW Newsradio, “which, according to the Institutes of Health’s released report just last March indicating that by doing this it will certainly improve public health and save lives.”

The current legal age is 19, the same as four other states and Washington, DC. Most states set 18 as the legal minimum but there’s a growing movement to change that.

“Hawaii was one of the first states to do this,” Vainieri Huttle said, “and right here in New Jersey we have 15 municipalities that have already raised the required age for tobacco purchases to 21.”
The closest city to South Jersey to take that action is Princeton.

NEW YORK - APRIL 01:  Cigarette packs are on display for sale in a shop April 1, 2009 in New York City. Today the federal tax on packs of cigarettes climbed from 39 cents to $1.01, the largest tobacco tax increase ever and affecting all tobacco products. The revenue accumulated is intended to pay for expanded healthcare coverage for uninsured children as part of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 4.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – APRIL 01: Cigarette packs are on display for sale in a shop April 1, 2009 in New York City. Today the federal tax on packs of cigarettes climbed from 39 cents to $1.01, the largest tobacco tax increase ever and affecting all tobacco products. The revenue accumulated is intended to pay for expanded healthcare coverage for uninsured children as part of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 4. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Convenience store operators are opposed to the plan, mostly because enforcement is left to them, and fines for violators start at 500 dollars.

The Assembly must act on the bill January 11th, the last voting day in the current session, or the bill is dead. And there’s no guarantee the issue will be on the agenda. Nor is there any sign of Governor Chris Christie’s feelings on the proposal.