WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New Jersey Legislature today delivered a big win for kids over the tobacco industry by voting to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol. This legislation is a critical step to help end the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic and stop e-cigarettes from addicting a generation of kids. Once Gov. Murphy signs the legislation, New Jersey will become the second state to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
When its new legislative session starts soon, we strongly urge the Senate and Assembly to tackle the serious problem of other flavored tobacco products – especially menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. A measure to crack down on menthol cigarettes was recently shelved, but there is no reason for further delay. It’s time to stop tobacco companies from targeting and addicting kids with flavored products once and for all.
Today’s action on flavored e-cigarettes is urgently needed, particularly in light of the Trump Administration’s recent guidance, which left thousands of flavors on the market. States have no time to waste as the youth e-cigarette epidemic has gone from bad to worse – and New Jersey’s action to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes is just what we need. Driven by the steep rise of youth use of e-cigarettes, the percentage of high school students who use tobacco products is at its highest level in 19 years. This year, 31.2% of high school students and 12.5% of middle school students – 6.2 million kids altogether – used some type of tobacco product, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The number of kids who use e-cigarettes has skyrocketed to over 5.3 million, including more than one in four (27.5%) high school students, and recent trends indicate that nearly 5,000 more kids start using e-cigarettes each day.
The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic – 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month, and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use. The time for waiting is over. Policymakers across the nation must act now to stop Juul and other e-cigarette companies from targeting our nation’s kids with flavored, nicotine-loaded products that are addicting a new generation and threaten decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use.
Flavored products have long been a favorite tobacco industry strategy for targeting kids. In addition to e-cigarettes, more than half of youth smokers – including seven out of ten African-American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes. The evidence shows that menthol cigarettes make it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. The pending legislation would help end the tobacco industry’s long and harmful history of targeting kids and African Americans with menthol cigarettes.
New Jersey’s action provides a major boost for the growing national movement to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. In November, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes. We thank those who have led and supported the New Jersey effort, notably Senate President Steve Sweeny and Speaker Craig Coughlin for their leadership, along with Senator Joe Vitale, Senator Shirley Turner and Assemblyman Herb Conaway as the lead sponsors.
Statement of Laurie Rubiner, Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids