Gov. Chris Christie signed a law Friday that made New Jersey the third state to raise its smoking age to 21, the AP reports. Hawaii and California are the only other states where the smoking age is 21. On Friday, Christie cited the strain on the health care system caused by tobacco-related illnesses. He also noted that his mother died from the effects of smoking. "By raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, we are giving young people more time to develop a maturity and better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place," Christie wrote. The restriction applies to tobacco products and electronic smoking devices. Christie vetoed a similar measure last year.
Democratic Sens. Richard Codey and Joseph Vitale, the bill's co-sponsors, said reports show smoking causes about $4 billion in health care costs to the state each year. That amount doesn't include costs related to secondhand smoke or smokeless tobacco use, they said. "Data surveys show that if individuals aren't smokers by 21 years of age, they will most likely not start later in their lives," Vitale said. "Making it harder to buy cigarettes by raising the age to legally purchase them in New Jersey will help prevent our youth from becoming lifelong smokers and suffering the long-term effects of the habit."