Underage Tobacco Sales in the Garden State: A Concerning Reality

where to buy cigarettes in NJ

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where to buy cigarettes in NJ

The state of New Jersey, along with federal regulations, prohibits the sale of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at

Rut Underage Tobacco Sales: A Persistent Challenge in the Garden State


Photo by 4330009 on Pixabay

Despite stringent laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to individuals under 21 years of age, a recent Rutgers University study has unveiled concerning rates of non-compliance among New Jersey retailers. The comprehensive research, published in the esteemed JAMA Network Open journal, sheds light on the alarming ease with which underage buyers can procure cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco merchandise across the state.

A Sobering Reality

Underage participants, aged 18 to 20, visited over 80 tobacco retailers within a 25-mile radius of New Brunswick, attempting to purchase tobacco products. Shockingly, they succeeded in more than 40% of these attempts, a statistic that underscores the urgency of addressing this public health issue.

While the study found that buyers in this age group were asked for identification in 65.9% of the purchase attempts, a staggering 14% of the time, they were still able to acquire the requested products, even when presenting valid driver’s licenses clearly indicating their underage status.

A Troubling Trend

The study’s lead author, Mary Hrywna, an assistant professor at the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies and Rutgers School of Public Health, expressed grave concern over the findings:

“The takeaway is that current conditions may prevent some easily discouraged buyers from acquiring tobacco products, but underage buyers who want tobacco products will have no trouble acquiring them. Despite the law requiring stores to sell only to buyers at least 21 years of age, underage buyers are likely to find a store that will sell to them.”

Retailer Disparities

Interestingly, the research uncovered disparities in compliance based on the type of tobacco retailer. Independent convenience stores and gas kiosks were found to card prospective buyers less frequently than their chain counterparts. Moreover, the study highlighted a correlation between tobacco retailer density (the average number of tobacco retailers per 1,000 people) and the failure to request identification from buyers.

As Cristine Delnevo, director of the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies, explained, “This is an important finding because we also know that greater tobacco retailer density is more common in low-income neighborhoods, and young people are more likely to use tobacco when they live in neighborhoods with a high density of tobacco retailers.”

A Call to Action

The researchers emphasize the urgency of addressing this issue, as delaying tobacco usage is crucial in preventing addiction and mitigating long-term health consequences. Hrywna underscored the importance of understanding the problem’s nuances across different policy environments, stating, “A better understanding of how the problem varies from place to place will increase our chances of solving it or, at the very least, minimizing it.”

Ongoing Efforts

The study team plans to conduct similar observations in North Carolina, where tobacco restrictions have traditionally been less stringent, and in New York City, where regulations have been more robust. This follow-up work aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the willingness to sell tobacco products across diverse policy landscapes, ultimately informing targeted interventions and policy reforms.

As the battle against underage tobacco access continues, this groundbreaking research serves as a clarion call for heightened vigilance, stricter enforcement, and innovative strategies to protect the well-being of New Jersey’s youth.