Governor Chris Christie..
February 7, 2011 - After years of decline, smoking rates in New Jersey are on the rise again. In its recently released State of Tobacco Control report for 2010, the American Lung Association says the number of adults who smoke in New Jersey rose last year to 15.8 percent, up from 14.8 percent a year earlier. The report also showed the smoking rate among New Jersey high school students increasing to 17 percent, up from 14.3 percent. The data was culled from federal surveys through the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that were done in 2009.
Directly related news brief:
New Jersey - governor has proposed eliminating state funding of tobacco control program..
Where's Senator Barbara Buono when you need her??
Such numbers would seemingly provide reason for the state to expand its anti-smoking and smoking cessation programs. But, because of the $11 billion deficit in the state budget last year, New Jersey slashed its funding for such programs in July from $7.6 million to just $600,000. The dramatic cuts came even though the state still brought in about $1 billion in 2010 from taxes on cigarettes and a 1998 legal settlement (Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement) with the big U.S. tobacco companies, and despite the state having a near total ban on indoor workplace smoking.
New Jersey started receiving payments from this settlement in 2000, it has received no less than $220 million a year and as much as $405 million. However, the master settlement agreement with the tobacco companies doesn't mandate how states must spend that money. In New Jersey's case, then-Gov. Jim McGreevey, for his 2004 state budget, borrowed against the cash New Jersey was to receive over 25 years to help plug a $5 billion deficit that year. So those funds are gone, dedicated to paying off debt.Those who are working to combat smoking in the Garden State are wondering what will happen to smoking rates in New Jersey in the years to come, as the tobacco companies continue to spend more than $200 million a year to market an expanding line of products here.
They also are wondering if state funding for effective anti-tobacco programs will ever be restored or even wiped out entirely. And they are wondering if the number of deaths tied directly to smoking in New Jersey — 11,201 last year — and the economic cost to the state — nearly $5.6 billion in 2010 — will rise.
"The bottom line is that despite an extraordinarily difficult budget situation, the Department of Health and Senior Services remains committed to tobacco prevention as a key public health issue, and that is why we have merged tobacco prevention efforts as part of an overall chronic disease strategy," said Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the department.
Reference: Are anti-smoking efforts going up in smoke?, Written by MIKE DANIELS STAFF WRITER, Asbury Park Press, 2/4/2011.
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