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Garcia, Eustace, Taliaferro & Mukherji Introduce Bill to Restore Funding for Smoking Prevention Programs in NJ

(TRENTON) – Assemblymen Carmelo Garcia, Tim Eustace, Adam Taliaferro and Raj Mukherji have introduced legislation to help restore funding for anti-smoking initiatives in the state.

New Jersey has not allocated any money for smoking prevention since 2012. A 2014 report ranked the state last among all states when it comes to funding tobacco prevention programs, despite taking in $948 million in tobacco-related revenue meant to be spent on programs to help smokers quit, and keep young people from starting. The report was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

“For the last three years, the state has spent nothing on prevention. This is unacceptable,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Not only does it kill people, it costs taxpayers billions in health care costs. There are funds that are supposed to be used to advocate prevention that are being spent elsewhere. This helps redirect those funds to their intended purpose so we can invest in prevention programs without having to raise the tobacco tax.”

“Once you start smoking, it is hard to quit. That is why it’s crucial that we relay the dangers of smoking to people, especially young people who may not realize that smoking a cigarette here and there can quickly turn into a life-long addiction,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It is time that we invest in the health of our residents by dedicating funds to promote tobacco prevention initiatives.”

“Tobacco companies are spending billions to market their products. Meanwhile, here in New Jersey we are spending zero dollars on smoking prevention efforts. That’s not even a fair fight,” said Taliaferro (D- Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Smoking costs lives and money. Dedicating a portion of the cigarette tax revenue to smoking prevention efforts will save us more in the long run.”

“The money coming into the state from the 1998 tobacco settlement and cigarette tax was supposed to be used for prevention measures and yet for years, no money has been set aside to support prevention efforts,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “There is no upside to smoking. If we want people to stop smoking, we have to invest in programs that will steer people away from this deadly habit.”

The bill (A-4668) would dedicate five percent of the total revenue from the state cigarette tax to anti-smoking programs operated by the New Jersey Department of Health. These programs received their highest level of annual funding in 2001 to 2003, but were gradually reduced over time, and were eliminated from the state budget beginning in FY 2012. Based on current projections of revenue, this would provide approximately $33 million for anti-smoking programs in FY 2016.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.