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NJ’s tobacco control efforts severely lacking, report claims

Compared to how much money the CDC believes New Jersey should spend on a comprehensive program to help cigarette smokers quit and prevent kids from starting, the state puts out next to nothing.

Matt King, Getty Images
Matt King, Getty Images

In a report released Thursday by a group of anti-smoking organizations, New Jersey was called out as “among the worst in the nation” for funding of its tobacco prevention and cessation program.

“New Jersey has not allocated state money to its tobacco control program since FY 2012,” the report, Keeping the Promise: Comprehensive Tobacco Prevention and Cessation for New Jersey, A Win-Win Solution for New Jersey’s Health and Economy, states.

In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, New Jersey received over $944 million from state tobacco tax revenues and the 1998 tobacco settlement, according to the report. And although the settlement was meant to provide funds for tobacco prevention efforts, it hasn’t, according to the report.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health said the department uses more than $4 million — most of which is federal — to offer services that focus on counseling for smokers looking to quit and prevention of youth smoking. And between several departments, more than $10 million is proposed for next fiscal year.

The state’s services include NJ Quitline (1-866-657-8677), a program for pregnant women and new mothers who want to quit, and a program to ensure vendors of tobacco are not selling to minors.

According to DOH, New Jersey has the third-lowest adult smoking rate among the states at 13.5 percent — well below the national average. The state’s youth smoking rate is below the national average as well.

However, for the first time in years, cigarette tax collections increased in New Jersey from the prior fiscal year, said Brian Shott, New Jersey Government Relations Director for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, one of the report’s contributors.

“The Office of Legislative Services estimates that the state brings in about $700 million annually in tobacco taxes, and so 1 percent of that — $7 million — represents a first step in making sure that we’re providing the necessary resources to folks who who want to quit their addiction to tobacco and to make sure that other folks never start,” Shott said, referring to a bill in the state Legislature that would devote 1 percent of tobacco tax revenue to a comprehensive tobacco control program.

The measure has cleared the full Assembly and received the green light from a Senate committee.

According to the report, $7 million would decrease the number of kids growing up to become an addicted adult smoker by more than 3,000, and would cut future health care expenditures by $67.8 million.

But, Shott points out, $7 million would represent just a small fraction of the $103.3 million the CDC recommends New Jersey spend on this issue.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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