TRENTON >> Doctors see the toll smoking takes on a daily basis.
So before city council voted to raise Trentons tobacco purchasing age from 19 to 21 on Thursday, medical practitioners from local hospitals told of the horror stories.
As a doctor, frankly, Im tired of treating adults with emphysema, lung disease and lung cancer due to smoking, Dr. Robert Remstein, of Capital Health, said at the meeting. Its sad every time I see that. Too many young patients have suffered and died.
Just this week, Remstein said a smoker had part of their lung removed.
In Trenton, we have a chance to make a difference for our youth with this ordinance, the doctor said.
Trenton council heeded the advice.
All but one of the council members voted to approve the ordinance that will increase the cigarette buying age in Trenton to 21.
Councilman Alex Bethea, a self-described health fanatic, begrudgingly threw his support behind the measure, which he failed to see the significance of. The councilman still thinks a smoker who is 15 or 16 can still get someone who is older to buy them a pack of smokes.
I would like to take a stronger approach, Bethea said. I just dont know what impact its going to have in the community immediately. I still think its just Band-Aid on a major surgery, but Im compelled to say yes.
The city has been floating the idea of passing the ordinance, which also includes prohibiting the sale nicotine delivery devices, such as e-cigarettes, to people under 21, since it was introduced in January. It was recently reworked to also stop the sale of non-nicotine delivery devices to people under the 21.
With the approval, Trenton became the 22nd municipality in the state and second largest behind Paterson to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21. Trenton joins Princeton, which bumped the tobacco purchasing age to 21 in May 2015, as the second municipality in Mercer County to enact the law.
The states tobacco purchasing age is 19, so the lone member to oppose the measure, expressed concerns that the city was overreaching with a law already on the books.
Youre actually imposing an additional restriction on adults, Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson said. Youre telling these adults between the ages of 18 and 20 that they cannot purchase cigarettes. Because the children who get access to cigarettes are always going to get access to cigarettes. Someone is always going to purchase for them. So Im not sure that changing the age limit is going to make a huge difference.
Last year, a push to increase the statewide tobacco purchasing age to 21 died when Gov. Chris Christie pocket vetoed the measure after it secured both Assembly and Senate approval. The ordinance was proposed by the citys Division of Health.
Trenton Health Director James Brownlee previously explained he wanted the law passed because tobacco addiction continues to be a paramount public health concern.
Dr. James Romano, a chief medical officer at St. Francis Medical Center, disclosed Thursday that tobacco remains the leading cause of preventative disease of pre-mature deaths in the U.S.
In 2016, nearly 6 percent of the emergency department at St. Francis Medical Center thats over 300 visits were for patients under 21 with pulmonary conditions directly or indirectly related to smoking, Romano said, adding the new law would reduce smoking deaths by 10 percent. For adolescents alive today, 4.2 million years of life will be saved by virtue of instituting this simple, logical policy change. The law, which will take effect in 20 days, will be enforced by the citys health and police departments. It penalizes the retailers and not the young people who might attempt to purchase the cigarettes illegally.
Employees or retail owners who sell tobacco products to people under 21 will be fined $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second violation, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Stamping out smoking in Trenton, city council approved last July to ban smoking in all city parks and recreational areas. The measure bans the use of smoking cigars, cigarettes, pipes and electronic smoking devices in the public spaces, and fine violators from $50 to $500 depending on the number of offenses.
New Jersey Municipalities that have raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21
East Rutherford 5/19/15
Fair Lawn 7/21/16
Highland Park 4/17/15
Union City 9/1/15
West Orange 7/1/16
Information provided by Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation