Jun. 28 2002
Washington, DC — Following the leadership of Governor Jim McGreevey, the New Jersey Legislature has made their state a national leader in protecting kids from tobacco by increasing the state cigarette tax by 70 cents a pack and increasing funding for the state's comprehensive tobacco prevention program. With this one-two punch of prevention spending and a cigarette tax increase, New Jersey can looking forward to reducing smoking among both kids and adults, saving lives, and saving money for taxpayers by reducing smoking-caused health care costs. As an added benefit, the cigarette tax increase will also raise much-needed revenue for the state and is popular among voters. Faced with hard choices to balance the budget, Governor McGreevey proposed and the Legislature adopted this courageous and far-sighted plan that will pay health and fiscal dividends for years to come.
In addition to New Jersey's action, on Sunday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign legislation increasing the city's cigarette tax by $1.42, for a total of $1.50 a pack. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership in this effort. The higher cigarette tax will improve the health of New Yorkers, while helping the city raise much-needed revenue to fund vital programs.
Increasing cigarette taxes is good public health policy, good fiscal policy and good politics, with an overwhelming majority of New Jersey voters indicating support for a cigarette tax increase in a recent poll. New Jersey can expect a 70-cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 61,000 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save nearly 30,000 New Jersey residents from smoking-caused deaths, produce approximately $1.1 billion in long-term health care savings, and raise nearly $300 million a year in new revenue.
The plan adopted by the Legislature recognizes that if New Jersey is to achieve a sustained, long-term reduction in smoking, it must also fund a comprehensive, statewide tobacco prevention program. Over the next four years, it would increase funding for tobacco prevention from the current $30 million a year to $45 million a year, the minimum amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for New Jersey. New Jersey would join only a handful of states that are funding tobacco prevention at the CDC-recommended levels. States with effective prevention programs have achieved significant reductions in smoking among both kids and adults, while saving up to $3 for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.
Tobacco's toll in New Jersey is devastating – 27.6 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 20,100 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care costs New Jersey and its taxpayers $2.6 billion a year. New Jersey can look forward to reducing this terrible toll if it maintains its commitment to tobacco prevention.
New Jersey becomes the fifteenth state to have increased its cigarette tax in recent months, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington State. These measures have been approved by governors and legislatures of both political parties, as well as by voters in Washington, underscoring the broad political support for cigarette tax increases.