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Over the past 10 years, electronic smoking devices (commonly known as e-cigarettes) have rapidly evolved and so has the message of their intended use.  Between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General found e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 900%, with more teens now using e-cigarettes than cigarettes. In addition to youth use, many adult users  are using this product with intentions to quit but instead of quitting, users are continuing to use e-cigarettes while still using conventional cigarettes.  In 2015, 58.8 percent of the people who recently used      e-cigarettes also currently smoked conventional cigarettes. The U.S. Surgeon General has found that even smoking a few cigarettes a day is dangerous to your health.  Now that electronic smoking devices are being regulated by the FDA, we must do our part at the local level as their regulation is being implemented. Through Funding from the New Jersey Department of Health Office of Tobacco Free, Nutrition and Fitness, Tobacco Free for a Healthy NJ (TFHNJ) has been tasked with assisting municipalities to pass policies that help reduce youth use & exposure to tobacco advertising.  Luckily there are several ways to do so and many NJ towns are already passing such policies. 


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Most e-cigarettes contain an addictive substance called nicotine which is derived from the tobacco plant. This addictive substance is particularly harmful to youth, as their bodies and brains are still developing. The teen years are critical for brain development, which continues into young adulthood. Young people who use nicotine products in any form, including e-cigarettes, are uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects. Because nicotine affects the development of the brain's reward system, continued e-cigarette use can not only lead to nicotine addiction, but it also can make other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine more pleasurable to a teen's developing brain. 


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According to a Yale study  published in the Journal of Pediatrics, nearly one in five e-cigarette users has also used e-cigarettes for marijuana, or marijuana by products like hash oil.  Hash oil can be substituted for the nicotine solution in many traditional e-cigarettes, and some vendors sell e-cigarettes specifically designed for use with marijuana leaves or wax infused with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Antoher concern with e-cigarette use for marijuana is that it harder to smell thus easier to conceal. Many devices look like pens or lip gloss.

LOCAL POLICY OPTIONS: Limiting Youth Access & Exposure


Communities nationwide are concerned about the growing popularity of electronic smoking devices. To regulate the sales and marketing of these products, many towns are amending their existing tobacco retailer laws so that the definition of  “tobacco product” includes e-cigarettes. This is a strong ordinance considering the FDA has updated their definition of a tobacco product to include e-cigarettes and  other similar products.

An important strength of licensing is that the government may impose a licensing fee that is sufficient to cover the costs of enforcement. A local tobacco retailer licensing law, on the other hand, empowers local law enforcement to impose meaningful penalties for illegal sales to minors and ensure compliance with all existing laws, ensuring that local communities can prioritize enforcement even when state and federal authorities are unable to do so.

Sample language and more details regarding updating the “tobacco product definition"


Prohibiting tobacco retailers near places youth visit reduces tobacco retailer density and limits the availability of and exposure to tobacco products. When more tobacco retailers are located in a given area, residents’ health suffers.  Youth are more likely to start smoking. People who smoke consume more cigarettes per day and have a harder time quitting.  Tobacco retailers cluster in neighborhoods with a high percentage of  low-income residents or residents of color. These communities are targeted by tobacco companies, and they disproportionately suffer the health harms caused by tobacco use. Some policies that help reduce tobacco use and advertising exposure include:

  • Capping the number of retailers in a geographic area 

  • Capping the number of retailers relative to population size

  • Requiring a minimum distance between retailers

  • Prohibiting retailers from locating near schools and other youth sensitive areas

Sample language & more details regarding location & density restrictions

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