Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
April 14, 1999
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Department of Health and Senior Services marked National Kick Butts Day in New Jersey today with an awards program that featured the incineration of several hundred packs of cigarettes sold to kids under age 18.
The teen-age purchasers were volunteers who work with local health departments and the American Cancer Society to test merchant compliance with tobacco age-of-sale laws. In areas of the state with active merchant education and age-of-sale enforcement programs, merchant compliance has increased from 16% four years ago to 80% today.
"Each year, tobacco kills more people than AIDS, car accidents, fires, suicides and homicides combined," said acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant at today's program at the Dempster Fire Services Center in Lawrenceville. "Something as addictive and dangerous as tobacco shouldn't be sold to kids as casually as pretzels and soda. We can count every pack of cigarettes that is not sold to a kid as a public health victory."
New Jersey law prohibits the sale of any tobacco product to minors. In addition to ensuring compliance with state law, the department is also working with the Food and Drug Administration to enforce a federal law that requires merchants to check the photo identification of anyone younger than 27 who attempts to purchase cigarettes or smokeless tobacco and prohibits the sale of these products to anyone younger than 18. Merchants face penalties ranging from $250 to $1,000 for violations of state law, and $250 to $10,000 for violations of federal law. Currently, 79 of the state's 115 local health departments are participating in the department's Tobacco Age-of-Sale Enforcement (TASE) program, working with young volunteers to monitor merchant compliance.
As part of its Kick Butts Day program, the department honored six local health departments and the American Cancer Society for their outstanding and innovative efforts educating kids about the dangers of tobacco use and enforcing state and federal age-of-sale laws. Award recipients include:
Englewood Health Department and Public Health Officer Violet Cherry. The department conducted anti-smoking workshops at both the middle and high school levels, and at local summer
camps for elementary school age children. In addition to the workshops, the department attended a number of health fairs, set up displays in school cafeterias and performed 6 merchant inspections and re-inspections through the state's TASE Program.
Roxbury Township Board of Health and Public Health Officer Frank Grisi. With the Roxbury Municipal Alliance, the department sought to curb tobacco use by students on school property. Two tobacco education groups were formed and met each week for eight weeks. Participants learned the effects of tobacco use, discussed why people smoke, and were motivated to adopt healthier lifestyles. The program is in its second year and students have found the information beneficial in helping them decide how to stop or reduce tobacco use.
Atlantic County Division of Public Health and Public Health Officer Tracye McArdle. All merchants in the division's jurisdiction were contacted and educated on their responsibilities under tobacco age-of-sale laws. The division ensured each store received a merchant education packet and visited stores to assist and train merchants on using the packets successfully. Twenty merchants also attended a classroom program designed to review their responsibilities in greater detail.
Manalapan Township Health Department and Public Health Officer W. David Richardson. The department presented an educational project called "Caring Hands" for 7th and 8th graders at the Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School. Over four lunch periods, the students made a large collage of paper hands, each one representing a family member or friend who has died or is suffering from smoking- related health problems. This gave the students the opportunity to think about smoking's impact in a unique and personal way, and to discuss how it feels to see a loved one struggle with addiction, deal with disease and death. Everyone who made a caring hand received a no-smoking sticker, pledge credit card, button or sticky pad, and were entered into a raffle for t-shirts and water bottles donated by the American Cancer Society.
Paramus Board of Health and Public Health Officer John Hopper. The board ran smoking prevention and cessation program in Paramus schools during the week of the Great American Smoke Out. The anti- smoking video "Huffless Dragon" was shown to pre-school age through 4th grade students at Visitation Academy. The students received the book "Huff n' Puff," which shows young people the damage smoking inflicts on the respiratory system. The board also ran a health fair at Westbrook Middle School, provided outreach materials to nursery schools in town and displayed posters and literature with anti-smoking messages in the town's public library and borough hall.
Palisades Park Health Department and Public Health Officer Jad Mihalinec. In addition to local age-of-sale enforcement activities, Mihalinec has urged local health officials statewide to develop innovative programs for drawing public attention to their anti- tobacco efforts. Among the ideas he has promoted is hosting a public destruction of cigarette packs bought by underage customers, a central part of today's awards program.
American Cancer Society Eastern Division, Inc. and Evelyn Dries and Ibelice Smith. The American Cancer Society has been very supportive of local health department efforts to curb tobacco use within their communities. Dries has collaborated with the TASE Program in assisting local health departments to recruit volunteer youth to participate in inspection visits. Smith conducted visits in non-participating jurisdictions enabling the Department of Health and Senior Services to achieve statewide compliance sampling.
A list of TASE Program participating local health departments is attached.