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THT Partners with City on New Vaping Ordinance

Trenton prohibits sales to teens, requires retailers to obtain license, pay fee

Trenton Health Team worked closely with the City of Trenton Department of Health and Human Services and the New Jersey Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP) to develop a new ordinance regulating sale and distribution of electronic smoking devices and related products as a first step to address “significant health and public safety concerns” surrounding vaping. See story in Trenton Daily

For example, city health workers recently were alerted that a 15-year-old had become seriously ill due to elevated blood lead levels. The city routinely follows-up on such cases to help mitigate or eliminate lead exposure in the home. In this case, however, health officials determined the elevated blood lead level was linked to the battery in the teen’s vaping device.

“Teenagers should never have access to tobacco or nicotine products,” said Elena Cromeyer, director of THT’s Transforming Communities Initiative. “Evidence shows licensing dissuades retailers from selling vaping devices and products. We applaud the City for taking steps to protect youth and regulate this industry.”

The new city ordinance, which took effect January 1, 2020, requires retailers to control access to all electronic smoking devices and products (no vending machines or self-service displays), limit sales to persons 21 and older, and obtain a license that has a $750 annual fee. Violations carry civil fines ranging from $250 to $1,000.

Director of Health and Human Services Shakira Abdul-Ali said examples shared by THT and GASP of steps taken by other municipalities in the region inspired Trenton’s ordinance. The City aims to prevent youngsters from obtaining vaping materials, she said. In addition, the new license requirement enables the city to identify retailers selling these products, while licensing fees help fund implementation and enforcement.

“The danger of vaping is real,” Abdul-Ali said. “While we understand the state is taking action on this issue, Trenton wanted to be proactive in regulating and discouraging use of these products.”

Trenton Health Team partnered with the City in 2017 to raise the minimum age for sale of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices from 19 to 21 years of age. While e-cigarettes are sometimes portrayed as a less dangerous alternative to cigarettes, e-cigarette use is strongly associated with later use of other tobacco products among youth. One study following young e-cigarette users found they were four times more likely to try cigarettes and three times more likely to become smokers. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 2,700 people nationwide have suffered from vaping-related illnesses—and at least 60 have died.

“We can’t let our young Trentonians make bad decisions that can impact the rest of their lives,” continued Mayor Reed Gusciora. “Vaping will not run the course of tobacco. We know the dangers now, and now is the time to act.”

THT’s efforts, supported by the Transforming Communities Initiative (TCI), enabled partners across multiple sectors in Trenton to advocate for requiring licensure in an otherwise largely unregulated electronic cigarette retail market. This partnership will be featured at the upcoming National Network of Public Health Institutes 18th Annual Open Forum meeting in Kansas City, Mo.