Failure to Restore State Tobacco Control Funding is Disappointing and Short-Sighted

Jun 22, 2010, 17:47 ET from New Jersey BREATHES

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J., June 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New Jersey's failure to fund tobacco control programs is disappointing and will have long-term effects on the state's health and economy, said a former New Jersey health commissioner today.

"It's unfortunate that the FY 2011 budget will not reinstate the $7.5 million in funding for the Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program that was eliminated in the first budget draft," said Fred M. Jacobs, MD, JD, chairman of New Jersey BREATHES, a coalition of anti-tobacco organizations.  Jacobs is a former New Jersey Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services.

"We need only look to New York for an outstanding example of public health policy that is also strong fiscal policy," said Dr. Jacobs. "The tax increase on cigarettes and other tobacco products in their FY 2011 year's budget will add needed revenue to the state and fund tobacco control programs.  Higher taxes generally lead to a reduction in smoking, which means healthier New Yorkers and reduced expenditures in healthcare costs, ultimately lowering everyone's tax burden."

"However, here in New Jersey, where the state brings in almost $1 billion per year from tobacco taxes and other tobacco funding, not a cent of state funding will go to treatment and prevention.  Suggested sources of state funding, including higher tobacco retailer fees and equalizing taxes on other tobacco products, would have helped solve New Jersey's fiscal crisis, as well as paid for anti-tobacco programs that improve New Jerseyans' health and impact their long-term costs."

New Jersey's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) was established in 2001, with $32.5 million in funding from the Master Settlement Agreement reached by state Attorneys General with the nation's tobacco companies.

"New Jersey still has one of the highest cigarette taxes in the country, and it's short-sighted at best for none of that money to be used to help these smokers quit," said Jacobs.  "The money collected now looks like a gain to the state, but the reality is that we're adding to the healthcare bills that will come due in the not-so-far-distant future."

New Jersey BREATHES is an independent, collective voice for tobacco control convened by the Institute of Medicine & Public Health of New Jersey.  More than 45 leading state, health, non-profit and civic organizations participate in the coalition.  New Jersey BREATHES seeks to reduce tobacco use and drive down smoking rates, especially among children.