By CBS3 Staff


TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey lawmakers took the first step as they move toward a possible ban on some vaping products. Amid a rise in illnesses and deaths nationwide, Gov. Phil Murphy made his opposition to vaping clear.

Right now, New Jersey is dealing with three cases of severe lung-related illnesses, and they’re also investigating 19 other cases that have now been connected to vaping, at least for now.

But Murphy is advising residents not to vape until further notice.

“As of this moment there is no safe vape. The only safe alternative to smoking is no smoking, period. Full stop,” Murphy said Thursday.

Murphy made his opposition to vaping crystal clear Thursday while announcing an executive order that creates a vaping task force. It will give recommendations on possible vaping restrictions.

The announcement comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigates more than 450 cases of vaping-related illnesses and six deaths.

“I urge New Jerseyeans to follow the recommendation of the CDC and discontinue the use of all vaping products,” Murphy said.

At Murphy’s side on the issue is Senate President Steve Sweeney, who said this week he’s backing a bill to ban flavored vaping products and will pursue a full vaping ban in New Jersey.

“Now that you’re hearing the surgeon general coming out and others coming out saying what a health risk it is, at least for the time being, we need to shut it down,” Sweeney said.

Vape shop owners are outraged at the proposed bans. They say their products help smokers quit smoking tobacco, which is known to cause numerous diseases.

Vaping advocates blame drug dealers and unregulated online companies for pushing products toward teens, including cartridges with THC. They say if you’re going to ban vaping, ban tobacco too.

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“We understand why Sen. Sweeney, as well as the governor, are concerned about youth usage. No youth should vape but to keep deadly cigarettes legal on the market while removing harm reduction products simply doesn’t make sense,” said American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley.

Lawmakers and state officials say they’re targeting vape manufacturers who are making its products appealing to children with unique flavors, but vapor advocates disagree.

“We know that over 2.5 million ex-smokers have been created in America because of vaping, and we shouldn’t overreact to illnesses and deaths that are clearly being caused by contaminated THC cartridges sold by drug dealers,” Conley said.

Murphy has ordered the new task force to offer their recommendations in exactly three weeks. As lawmakers wait on those recommendations, vapor advocates say there has to be a better solution.

“Smokers smoke for the nicotine but they die from the tar, and we need to give them options — smarter options — but we also need to do more work to keep these out of the hands of youth,” Conley said.

CBS3’s Cleve Bryan and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.

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