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NJ has Mixed Results in Working to Reduce Tobacco Use 

Written by The Two River Times. Posted in Letters & Commentary

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NJ has Mixed Results in Working to Reduce Tobacco Use 

Published on January 25, 2013 with No Comments

By The American Lung Association

New Jersey fell short in adequately funding programs to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease in 2012, according to the recently released American Lung Associa­tion’s State of Tobacco Control 2013 report.

The lung association’s State of Tobacco Control report tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.

The 11th annual report shows how money is often at the root of the leading cause of preventable death, as state and federal policymakers are failing to battle a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics released a report in conjunction with State of Tobacco Control 2013 called Big Tobacco Wins Tax Battles, revealing preliminary data that tobacco manufacturers and retailers gave $53.4 million to state candidates for office, political parties and to oppose tobacco-related ballot measures during the 2011-2012 election cycle. This figure includes spending over $46 million to defeat California’s initiative to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack. Tobacco manufacturers and retailers gave significant amounts of money to candidates in the following states: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Missouri.

Although New Jersey receives $997 million in tobacco-related revenue annually, it spends a dismal 2.2 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to fund tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. Nationally, the failure of states to invest in policies and programs to reduce tobacco use has resulted in 3 million new youth and young adult smokers in the United States, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

 

New Jersey received the following grades for 2012:

• F in Funding for Tobacco Prevention and Control Programs

• A in Smoke-free Air

• B in Cigarette Tax

• D in Cessation Coverage

 

Sadly, New Jersey joins many other states in neglecting to properly invest its annual tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes to implement proven tactics that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease.

“New Jersey must make it a priority to pass policies that keep kids off tobacco and to help smokers quit,” said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “That starts with advocating for more state funding to help create more comprehensive plans.”

Tobacco causes an estimated 11,201 deaths in New Jersey annually and costs the state’s economy $5.6 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that the state can ill afford. Each year, 443,000 people die in the U.S. from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure.

Yet, amidst an overall lackluster year for nationwide tobacco control, New Jersey stood out by maintaining an “A” in smoke-free air with no state funding to assist.

The American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic calls on New Jersey to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes to achieve tax parity. The American Lung Association in New Jersey would like to see an increase in the cigarette tax by $1, increasing the tax on each pack of 20 up to $3.70. Along with a higher cigarette tax, the lung association hopes to see an increase in the tax on other tobacco products, such as snuff and chewing tobacco, to be the same as cigarettes.

“Opportunities abound in the year ahead,” Brown said. “While no state earned an A or B on its report card for cessation, the Affordable Care Act creates new pathways to help smokers quit. That is why New Jersey must include a cessation benefit in its Essential Health Benefit and Medicaid expansion plans.

“Money is not a barrier to combating tobacco caused disease,” Brown said. “It is greed and lack of political will that continues to bind us to Big Tobacco. Our state elected officials have an opportunity to change course in 2013, and make big strides in the fight to end tobacco-caused death and disease.”

 

Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. For more information about the American Lung Association, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.Lung.org.

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