Governor McGreevey Puts New Jersey's… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Governor McGreevey Puts New Jersey's Kids and Taxpayers First by Proposing Comprehensive Tobacco Prevention Plan

Statement by William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 26, 2002

Washington, DC — Governor Jim McGreevey today put New Jersey's kids and taxpayers first by proposing a budget that maintains funding for the state's tobacco prevention program and increases the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack. Faced with hard choices to balance the budget, Governor McGreevey proposed a courageous and far-sighted plan that will reduce smoking among both kids and adults, save lives by reducing lung cancer and heart disease, and save millions of dollars in health care costs. Based on the experience of other states, New Jersey can look forward to saving as much as $3 in smoking-caused health care costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention. Governor McGreevey's plan is a smart investment for New Jersey that will pay health and fiscal dividends for years to come if it is sustained.

Increasing cigarette taxes is good public health policy, good fiscal policy and good politics, with 82 percent of New Jersey voters saying in a recent poll that they support a 50-cent cigarette tax increase. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes will reduce youth smoking by seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by three to five percent, while raising much-needed revenue. New Jersey can expect a 50-cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent more than 34,000 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save some 18,000 current New Jersey residents from smoking-caused deaths, produce $680 million in long-term health care savings, and raise more than $220 million a year in new revenue.

Governor McGreevey's plan also recognizes that if New Jersey is to achieve a sustained, long-term reduction in smoking, it must fund a comprehensive, statewide tobacco prevention program. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that New Jersey spend at least $45 million a year on such a program. Governor McGreevey's plan continues the good start New Jersey has made by maintaining funding for tobacco prevention at $30 million in the coming year. The Governor's plan to securitize, or sell to investors, $1.1 billion of New Jersey's future tobacco settlement payments in exchange for a one-time lump-sum payment makes it critical that New Jersey make a long-term commitment to adequately fund tobacco prevention in the future. If New Jersey does so, it can look forward to significant declines in youth smoking rates similar to those achieved by other states with comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. Florida, for example, reduced smoking by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students in just three years, although that progress has been stalled by recent budget cuts, demonstrating the need for sustained funding over time.

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. Governor McGreevey's plan is a far-sighted solution to these challenges and should be enacted by the Legislature.