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Taken to Task

Governor Murphy warns of e-cig dangers, orders Electronic Smoking Device Task Force to track epidemic and create public awareness campaign.

Standing with legislative leaders, cabinet members, and public health officials, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 84 last Thursday to create the Electronic Smoking Device Task Force, which is directed to formulate a comprehensive strategy to protect New Jersey residents from the hazards of electronic cigarettes. The task force is to submit its recommendations to the Governor, the Legislature, and the public within 21 days.

“The rash of lung disease and death nationwide due to e-cigarette use is deeply alarming,” said Governor Murphy. “As state leaders charged with protecting the safety and health of the New Jersey public, we must have a more complete understanding of the risks associated with this all-too-common practice, and the options available to address e-cigarette use.

“The only safe alternative to smoking is not smoking. I urge New Jerseyans to follow the recommendations of the CDC and our Department of Health to discontinue the use of all electronic cigarettes and vaping products,” Governor Murphy continued.

“Use of electronic smoking devices has skyrocketed among our youth and the incidence of serious lung complications is increasing at a rapid rate—which is cause for concern,” said Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “People should stop vaping until the FDA and the CDC determine the cause of these illnesses. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, people should not buy e-cigarette products off the street and e-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults and pregnant women.”

Task Force Directives

Executive Order No. 84 creates a 10-member Electronic Smoking Device Task Force, charged with examining all options to address electronic cigarette use, including the following:
• Providing warning signs to be posted in stores that sell electronic smoking devices;
• Expanding the State’s ability to investigate, track, and monitor any cases of severe pulmonary disease;
• Recommending legislative and regulatory changes needed to protect young people from electronic cigarettes;
• Developing a statewide public awareness campaign on the risks of electronic cigarette use;
• Reviewing and providing feedback on current efforts to address the dangers of electronic cigarette use and considering methods for expansion of those efforts;
• Cooperating with local, state, federal, and private or non-profit entities while the multi-state investigation continues; and
• Adopting similar policies with respect to traditional cigarettes.

“Governor Murphy is right to prioritize this issue with a task force so that we can collect the information we need to protect all residents,” said Christine Norbut Beyer, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. “It is absolutely critical for parents to be aware and vigilant of vaping dangers, just as they are with prescription medications and illegal drugs. The vaping industry has gone stealth, creating tools that mimic flash drives, sharpie markers, lipstick, lighters, and more. This type of marketing certainly raises concerns because they’re targeting youth, encouraging deception and putting young lives at-risk.”

Legislators and advocates also applauded the announcement:

• Said Senate President Steve Sweeney, “We are losing another generation of children. We had great success in reducing smoking and we all should be proud of that. Underage smoking went down, and now the tobacco industry has found another way to hook kids. It’s not right.”

• Said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, “A better understanding of the effects of vaping is vital to the public health…. Shame on the federal government for not exercising its regulatory authority in a more timely manner….”

• Said Meredith Berkman and Dorian Fuhrman, co-founders of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarette, “This laser-focused task force…is a bold and creative executive response to the youth vaping epidemic, the most serious adolescent public-health crisis our country has faced in decades…. Governor Murphy, a champion for children and families, fully understands that unless states act immediately to do the work that the FDA failed to do by allowing flavored e-cigs to remain on the market without fully reviewing them—our young people are in danger of becoming a generation of nicotine addicts and potentially suffering from long-term health consequences.