The New Jersey state Assembly Health Committee approved a bill today which would prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored substances intended for hookah use.
The bill extends the current ban on the sale of flavored cigarettes to include menthol cigarettes, which were exempted from the flavored cigarette ban when it was first enacted in 2008, and also extends the ban to include clove cigarettes, which were exempted under the 2008 New Jersey law but were banned at by federal law in 2009.
The bill also bans flavored consumable hookah products, which are defined under the bill to mean any substance, including, but not limited to, tobacco, that is marketed, designed, or otherwise intended to be smoked or otherwise consumed using a hookah. The bill additionally makes the prohibitions and the penalties under the flavored cigarette ban applicable to retailers, rather than individuals.
A late amendment to the bill also included a ban on flavored oral nicotine pouches and “mass-produced” cigars.
A retailer who violates the provision of the bill pertaining to electronic smoking devices is to be liable to a civil penalty of a minimum of $500 for the first violation, $750 for the second violation, $1,000 for the third, and for the fourth and each subsequent violation, a fine of at least $1,000 and a three-year suspension of the person’s retail dealer licensee.
A bipartisan review of the bill by the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) fond that imposing the ban on menthol cigarettes alone could reduce cigarette tax revenues by as much as $205 million and sales and use tax revenues by as much as $38 million annually if all consumers of menthol cigarettes cease to purchase those products or alternative products that are subject to taxation.
Based on FY 2021 revenue performance, approximately 205 million packs of cigarettes were sold in New Jersey during that period, which of those, roughly 76 million packs sold contained menthol cigarettes. Thus, the amount of revenue generated from sales of menthol cigarettes was roughly $205 million in FY 2021.
In their report, the OLS noted they cannot cannot predict the behavior of smokers who currently purchase menthol cigarettes in this State in response to a menthol cigarette ban, as those who currently purchase menthol cigarettes could choose to smoke non-flavored cigarettes or quit smoking altogether.
According to current state law, which was enacted in 2008, it is prohibited to to sell or distribute cigarettes with a “characterizing flavor other than tobacco, clove or menthol.”
A companion bill, sponsored by Senator Bob Singer (R-Lakewood), was approved by the Senate Health Committee earlier this year and awaits action by the full Senate.
The bill must pass the full Assembly and Senate before Governor Murphy can sign. If he does, New Jersey will join Massachusetts as the only state to institute such a ban.