TRENTON — New Jersey is one step closer to banning the sale of most flavored electronic cigarettes.
By Brent Johnson – May 17th, 2016
The state Senate’s health committee on Monday voted to approve a bill that would bar anyone from selling the increasingly popular vapor products in flavors other than clove, menthol and tobacco.
The vote came despite more than an hour of passionate opposition from business owners and customers of the increasingly popular “vaping” industry, which has seen stores pop up in countless strip malls across New Jersey.
“Vaping” is the process of pulling on an electronic device that turns flavored liquid — sometimes with nicotine, sometimes without — into vapor. The liquids are available in hundreds of flavors, from chocolate to cherry to bubblegum.
Proponents say they’re a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes and can help people quit smoking. Dozens of supporters protested the bill on the steps of the Statehouse as the committee met Monday.
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But the long-term effect are unknown. And opponents say the variety of flavors are attractive to young people and can lead them on a path toward lighting up traditional cigarettes.
The proposed ban (S298) — sponsored by the health committee’s chairman, state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) — comes eight years after New Jersey became the first state to pass a similar ban of flavored cigarettes in 2008.
Kevin Roberts, a former spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie who now represents Logic Technology, the nation’s third-largest supplier of e-cigarettes, called the measure a “premature move before the science is in” on the product.
Roberts added that “adult smokers do not necessarily want an electronic cigarette that tastes identical to the products” they are trying to quit.
Roshan S. Kumaran, the owner of Evapify, a “vape” shop in Woodbridge, told the committee that barring flavored e-cigarettes is akin to barring candy because of the danger of sugar.
“Do we have age restrictions on sweets and deserts even though they can cause diabetes?” Kumaran asked.
He was also one of numerous shop owners who feared their businesses would close if the ban was passed by the state Legislature.
State Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) said he’s afraid the state is “creating an impediment to a very effective means of helping people stop smoking.”
But Corinne Orlando, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, said studies show flavored e-cigarettes are a “gateway” to traditional smoking.
State Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) said he realizes “vaping is better than smoking.”
“But we’re looking at high school kids,” Whelan added. “I don’t think anyone argue vaping is good for 13- and 14-year-old kids. What do we do about that?”
The bill must now be passed by the full state Senate and Assembly, and signed by Christie to become law.