HOWELL — A Monmouth County town hopes to ease the youth vaping “epidemic” with a new series of actions and fines.

Howell Alliance Coordinator, Christa Riddle said that town officials will crack down on the illegal sale of flavored e-cartridges, while also hoping to stem the alarming and widespread use of vape products by youth around New Jersey.

Riddle said the risks of using traditional, combustible cigarettes seems to have gotten through to families — while dangers of newer nicotine and tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices appear to need more emphasis.

(Monmouth County Canva)
( Canva)

Howell Township updated its smoking ordinance nearly a year ago in spring 2023.

Enforcement measures for violations are starting now — with a particular focus on flavored and disposable e-cigarettes.

Many of these cartridges have not been regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — and have strong concentrates of nicotine, synthetic nicotine, and even THC (the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis).

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Despite being illegal at the federal and state levels since 2020, many of the flavored vape cartridges are still on some store shelves, "which is confusing" to consumers, Riddle added.

Some youth are already vaping two to three nicotine pods a day, Riddle said, which can be the equivalent of up to 20 cigarettes' worth of nicotine — creating a perfect storm for addiction.

There are no nicotine or THC potency caps, she continued, so e-cigarette pods and e-liquids may contain stronger nicotine salts, synthetic nicotine and higher nicotine concentrates than traditional cigarettes.

Riddle said there has also been concern about high potency, concentrated marijuana products with THC levels of up to almost 100%, which has been linked to psychoses and cannabis use disorder.

Enforcement of Howell's public smoking ban

Township police officers will now be enforcing the town-wide ban on smoking on public property and in public places, issuing violations no matter what substance is being smoked.

While a first offense earned a fine of $250, a Howell Township Municipal Court judge has the option to waive that amount with proof of completion of RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery’s 8-week Nicotine and Tobacco Recovery Program, or another similar, accredited program.

Fines for smoking on public property then increase to $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third and subsequent offenses.

As for Howell's efforts concerning the sale of e-smoking devices, township code enforcement officers and police would be writing up retailers for selling, distributing, or providing any e-cigarette product to anyone under 21 — as well as all sales of flavored e-cigarette products.

Since 2017, the legal age for buying tobacco products and electronic smoking devices in New Jersey has been 21.

It is also illegal in NJ for any retailer to give away e-cigarette products or to accept e-cigarette coupons.

The township has launched a new, required e-cigarette retailer license — the fee is $1,000 and it needs to be renewed annually.

Fines for retail electronic smoking device product sales violations are $1,000 for a first offense; $1,500 for a second offense and $2,000 for third and subsequent offenses.

Any business with two violations within a year or five total violations could see its license permanently revoked, at the discretion of Howell's mayor and town council.

Howell does not allow retail cannabis dispensaries and has opted out of retail cannabis licensing.

The town's full ordinance on smoking and e-cigarette regulations can be found online.

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