Princeton continues fight against nicotine

In another anti-smoking effort, Princeton may soon become the 14th municipality in the state to better track the purchase and sale of e-cigarettes. On July 19, the Princeton Board of Health introduced an ordinance that will require all retailers to purchase an annual license if they want to sell e-cigarettes. The board is permitted to introduce its own ordinances without council approval.

At present in Princeton, e-cigarettes are only monitored by the age customers can buy them, which falls in line with the 21-plus age requirement for tobacco sales. Outside of Princeton, however, the state age requirement for tobacco and e-cigarette sales is 19 and older.

Princeton Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser said the license is not intended to discourage e-cigarette sales but to monitor them.

“We will be the lead on tracking the sale on these locally,” he said. “The tracking of these items is, from our perspective, necessary.”

Retailers will be required to license with the board of health, just as restaurants obtain a retail food license. Once they’ve acquired the license, it will allow Grosser and his team to keep any eye on them and issue compliance checks on a consistent basis.

While the details of the ordinance are still being combed through, Grosser expects any retailer in violation to undergo similar consequences to a tobacco age-of-sale violation: a $250 fine for first offense, $500 fine for second and $1,000 for third.

Princeton has not yet established how much the licensing fee will cost retailers per year. Some of the other municipalities adhering to the new ordinance charge $1,400.

Since e-cigarettes are relatively new in the market, studies are just beginning to emerge regarding long-term effects. They were introduced as a remedy to quitting cigarettes, but a common concern is whether they are better or worse than the cigarette themselves. Grosser noted recent studies conducted by the FDA and John Hopkins University that found greater amounts of nicotine in e-cigarettes than a regular ones.  Even the “no-nicotine” liquids had traces.

“There are too many unknowns about what else is in this product,” Grosser said. “Initial tests in 2009 found cancer-causing chemicals and ingredients found in antifreeze. There are components I’m not fond of as a health officer. Truth of the matter is – if you need to quit smoking, you need to just quit smoking. This is not a healthy product.”

Other common concerns include the sweet flavors of the e-cigarette liquid inviting youth and even children to smoke or eat it. After some children were poisoned from drinking the e-cigarette liquid, the state enforced a law mandating all e-cigarettes be sold in childproof packaging. This went into effect Aug. 1.

If the Princeton ordinance passes at the Sept. 20 board of health meeting, the licensing requirement will begin Jan. 1.

To view local resources for quitting smoking, one can visitwww.mercercouncil.org and click on its Tobacco Resource Guide.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida