New smoking age increased to 21

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TRENTON — In advance of the age to purchase tobacco products and electronic smoking devices increasing to 21, the Department of Health mailed nearly 10,000 tobacco vendors and vape shop operators information about the law and signs for retailers to post. These materials have also been distributed to 95 county and local health officers in New Jersey. School districts, colleges and universities, and health advocates will also be receiving educational materials next week.

As of Nov. 1, smokers must be at least 21 to buy these products. Bright yellow signage highlights the new age requirement and will help store owners and clerks explain the law to the public. Under the new law, vendors who sell tobacco products to a person under 21 years of age can face fines of up to $1,000 and may be subject to a license suspension or revocation.

“Raising the minimum age of tobacco sale from 19 to 21 helps protect New Jersey youth from the deadly effects of tobacco use,” Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “The younger someone starts to smoke, the more addicted they are likely to become and the harder it is to quit. By raising the purchase age, our youth will be less likely to start using tobacco and develop an addiction.”

The Department has begun educating the public about this law change on social media using #NJ21TobaccoLaw.

Earlier this year, Governor Christie signed legislation raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in order to give young people more time to mature and develop a better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be. The law provides additional public health protection by including electronic smoking devices, which also deliver nicotine and other toxic substances. This is especially critical given that more than 12 percent of New Jersey high school students report using e-cigarettes.

Teens and young adults are at particular risk for nicotine addiction because their brains are still developing. According to a 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, e-cigarettes have the potential to cause lasting harm to the health of young users, especially their brain development.

To comply with the law, licensed tobacco merchants must post a 3” x 6” sign that states the legal penalty for selling tobacco products to minors at locations where tobacco products are displayed and at cash registers. These signs can be downloaded from the Department of Health website at Tobacco merchants may also contact their local health department. An online directory of local health departments is available at

New Jersey is the third state in the nation to raise the smoking-purchase age to 21, following Hawaii and California. Approximately 13.5 percent of New Jersey adults between ages 18 and 24 smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among New Jersey youth aged 12 to 18 years, 8.2 percent smoke.

For more information about the new law and New Jersey’s Tobacco Control Program, visit the Department of Health website at Other helpful resources include Tobacco-Free for a Healthy New Jersey at, and the CDC website at

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.

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