Mar. 19 2010
Washington, D.C. &mdash Governor Christie has let down New Jersey's kids and taxpayers with his proposal to eliminate funding for New Jersey's tobacco prevention and cessation program. This proposal will lead to more kids becoming addicted to tobacco, fewer tobacco users getting the help they need to quit, more lives being lost and New Jersey taxpayers paying the bill for higher tobacco-caused health care costs. It is truly penny-wise and pound-foolish budgeting.
First impressions say a great deal, and Governor Christie's first budget is leaving the impression he doesn't care about protecting New Jersey from tobacco or saving taxpayer's money. Steps have to be taken to close the budget deficit, but without funding tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, 7,090 more kids in New Jersey will become addicted adult smokers. This will result in 2,260 premature smoking related deaths, and cost taxpayers $124 million in increased health care spending by the state government.
If the legislature follows the Governor's budget we will save a few million in the short term, pay more in healthcare for years to come and have more people dealing with cancer, emphysema and other smoking related illnesses.
New Jersey this year will collect $968 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It would take less than one percent of this tobacco revenue to continue current funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Surely New Jersey can continue to use some of its tobacco money to fight the tobacco problem. In fact, New Jersey should be increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs to meet the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Governor Christie and the Legislature also have a far better solution to address the budget deficit that will not hurt New Jersey's health — increase the tobacco tax. Instead of eliminating funding for tobacco prevention, they can raise taxes on other tobacco products to the current level of cigarette taxes, $2.70 per pack. This would bring in $20.8 million in new annual revenue.
We strongly urge the Legislature to reject this proposal and take a stand for health by continuing to fund tobacco prevention and cessation to protect kids, help tobacco users quit, save lives and save money.