(TRENTON) – A two-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Dan Benson, Tim Eustace and Joseph Lagana to restore funding for anti-smoking initiatives that were eliminated from the state budget was released Monday by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11,000 lives are prematurely lost due to tobacco use in New Jersey each year. In addition, tobacco use costs the state more than $3 billion in health care bills annually, including nearly $1 billion in Medicaid payments alone.
The first bill (A-2219), sponsored by Benson, would appropriate $7.56 million for anti-smoking programs in the Department of Health, providing the same level of appropriation that these programs received in fiscal year 2010, before they were eliminated from the budget.
“Having lost my father to lung cancer, I know first-hand the personal human and financial costs of smoking,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Restoring this funding can help people quit and prevent others, especially young people, from becoming addicted.”
The bill would appropriate $5.76 million for school-based programs and youth anti-smoking initiatives, and $1.8 million for general anti-smoking programs. The bill would also restore a language provision that would allow funds to be transferred between the two accounts, which was included in annual appropriations acts prior to the elimination of these two line items.
“This is a small, but important step toward restoring the $30 million that the state appropriated for tobacco prevention from 2001 through 2003, which is still far short of the roughly $120 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” added Benson.
The second bill (A-3338), sponsored by Eustace and Lagana, would dedicate five percent of the total revenue from the state cigarette tax to anti-smoking programs operated by the Department of Health, beginning in FY 2017. These programs received their highest level of annual funding from 2001 to 2003, but were gradually reduced and eliminated from the state budget in FY 2012.
Based on current projections of revenue, this would provide approximately $33 million for anti-smoking programs in FY 2017.
“Smoking kills. Until cigarettes are available for consumption, we should make every effort to prevent people from falling into its deadly trap,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The state once saw it fit to invest in the well-being of our residents by funding anti-smoking programs. Let’s do it again.”
“Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the country,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We can either do nothing, or we can support anti-smoking programs that can help save the state on health care costs and prevent people from picking up this terrible habit.”