NJ lawmakers consider barring pharmacies from selling tobacco, e-cigs

Joe Hernandez, WHYY | September 12, 2019 | Health Care
Proposal comes in shadow of mysterious illness related to vaping. Separately, Senate President Steve Sweeney discusses outright ban of all electronic smoking devices in New Jersey

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Vaping
New Jersey lawmakers are weighing a ban on the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes in the state’s more than 2,200 pharmacies.

A proposal floated by Democratic legislators would prohibit the sale of cigarettes and vaping products in pharmacies and any retailers that contain pharmacies, including many grocery stores.
“To have medical services and then sell cigarettes is crazy,” said state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), who is chairman of the Senate’s health committee. “I think it’s not in the public interest — certainly not in the public health interest — to do that.”

The proposal would still permit pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana, which is legal in New Jersey, a provision that other lawmakers found hypocritical.

“Smoking is smoking,” said state Sen. Bob Singer (R-Ocean), who voted in favor of medical marijuana, but disagreed with banning only tobacco and nicotine products from pharmacies. “No one will ever tell me that smoking is good of any kind.”

Several major retailers, including CVS and Wegmans, have voluntarily stopped selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The proposal came as several dozen states continued to combat a mysterious illness related to vaping. There were three confirmed cases of the sickness in New Jersey, and 19 suspected ones, but state officials still did not know the cause.

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that his administration planned to ban flavored e-cigarettes in response to the outbreak.

Also on Wednesday, state Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) announced he would introduce a plan to phase in a complete ban on all electronic smoking devices in New Jersey.

The state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee passed the legislation to ban tobacco and e-cigarettes in pharmacies Wednesday, even as critics warned that it could do little to deter smoking and hurt the state’s economy.

“Obviously [such bans] drive sales out of our retailers,” said Mary Ellen Peppard, vice president of the New Jersey Food Council. “But they tend to drive sales to other states, to online, and in some cases unfortunately to illicit sales.”