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Editor’s Note: This story was updated with comment from Danish Iqbal at 4:40 p.m.
Senate President Steve Sweeney announced his intent to ban the sale of all electronic cigarette products in New Jersey Wednesday.
“The health and safety and even the lives of young people are at risk,” Sweeney said. “The flavored products are targeted at teenagers and young adults with the intent of luring them into addiction. We should not allow another generation to get addicted to a product that lowers life expectancy and seriously damages their heart and lungs. Here is a product that we know is seriously harming the health of users, especially our youth.”
Sweeney’s proposal would bar the sale of electronic cigarettes, nicotine cartridges, containers and all other vaping products.
It is unclear whether Sweeney’s proposed ban would apply to marijuana vapor cartridges sold by the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
The senate president’s announcement comes amidst a spate of e-cigarette-related illnesses across the nation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, health officials are investigating more than 450 instances of vaping-related pulmonary illnesses, six of which have resulted in deaths, across the nation.
Three instances of such illnesses have been confirmed in New Jersey, and 19 others are under investigation.
Officials have yet to tie the illnesses to any specific product.
“There is an urgency here with the health and safety — and even the lives — of young people at risk,” Sweeney said.
Two other bills limiting the sale of vaping products are moving their way through the legislature.
On Tuesday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee advanced a bill that bars sales promotions, including rebates and coupons, for electronic cigarette products.
A bill by State Sen. Shirley Turner, which was introduced in December but has yet to be heard in committee, would make the sale of flavored nicotine cartridges illegal.
Sweeney’s proposed ban is likely to be met with resistance from the e-cigarette industry, the size of which is expected to grow into the tens of billions of dollars in the coming years, according to multiple market forecasts.
Danish Iqbal, president of the New Jersey Vapor Rights Coalition, met Sweeney’s announcement with little such opposition Thursday, pointing to black-market marijuana vapor cartridges as the cause of the mystery vaping illnesses.
“All early indications are that the recent string of illnesses are attributable to THC related vapor products, which have been laced with other substances, and not flavored e-liquid containing nicotine which is standard for e-cigarettes. Many of those THC related products being consumed are illegal and sold on the black market – as opposed to the regulated products being sold legally in mom and pop member stores employing hundreds of New Jerseyans across our state.”
It’s not clear how quickly Sweeney will seek to implement the ban, but it likely won’t come soon.
“I support the efforts of Senator Turner and Senator Vitale to protect young people from the dangers of vaping,” Sweeney said. “These initiatives could be the first steps towards a total ban on the sale of all vaping products, including e-cigarettes. I will propose a plan to phase out the sale of all vaping products over the next few years.”