Click play for audio version of this story
Editor’s Note: This story was updated with comment from Auth and Schepisi at 4:52 p.m.
Democratic challengers in the 39th district are looking to turn incumbents’ records on tobacco products into a campaign issue.
“As parents and as public servants we look forward to working in the Assembly to help craft and pass legislation to implement the expert recommendations of the task force on e-cigarettes,” Democratic Assembly candidates John Birkner and Gerald Falotico said in a joint statement.
In 2017, Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi voted against a bill banning the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in committee.
That bill got out of committees in both chambers but never made it to a full vote.
“Considering Mr. Birkner and Mr. Falotico have expressed their support for the legalization of recreational marijuana in all forms, including flavored, it is the height of hypocrisy to condemn a vote by Assemblywoman Schepisi in committee, on a bill that never moved forward in a Democrat controlled legislature, because of concerns raised by legislators on both sides of the aisle,” Schepisi and Assemblyman Bob Auth said.
Lawmakers in the state are eyeing another run at even more stringent regulations on e-cigarettes following a spate of lung illnesses health officials believe are vape-related.
Some reports indicate the lung illnesses are linked to black-market marijuana vape cartridges, though the exact cause remains unclear, and lawmakers have largely focused their response to electronic tobacco products.
Before the spate of illnesses, there was little indication that vapes were unsafe, though there continues to be a dearth of research on the health impact e-cigarettes.
“As more information has become available, legislators on both sides of the aisle have worked to enact serious reforms based on science and fact, and not political soundbites,” the Republicans said. “We look forward to continuing to work, across party lines, to address serious issues that impact our children and our families.”
The incumbents also voted against raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 19 to 21 in 2016 and 2017. Former Gov. Chris Christie signed the 2017 bill into law.
To the challengers, it’s a pattern.
“Unlike our opponents, Assembly members Auth and Schepisi, we can be trusted to protect New Jersey’s youth from the immoral tactics these companies use to market their carcinogenic and addictive products to young people,” the Democrats said.