As a former smoker and survivor of heart disease, I am very concerned about the lack of state funding for tobacco prevention programs and other services that help smokers quit. While smoking rates have decreased dramatically in the past 20 years, smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death and New Jersey is the only state that dedicates no state resources to the fight against this deadly addiction. Programs to prevent children from picking up the habit and to help smokers quit have disappeared. NJ generates approximately $700 million dollars from the tobacco tax, yet we spend nothing on combating nicotine addiction. This is wrong.
The NJ Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee recently approved a bill that would reinstate funding for tobacco prevention. Although it would dedicate only five percent of what is generated from tobacco taxes, it would still provide $33 million to fund programs to curb and prevent tobacco use. This is a great start.
New Jersey has made progress in lowering the smoking rates across the state, but there is more work to be done. Disparities in smoking rates exist according to income, mental health status and other factors. In addition, e-cigarette and hookah use among children and young adults is skyrocketing, which increases the chances that a whole new generation will struggle with nicotine addiction as adults.
On behalf of the American Heart Association, I urge the state legislature to continue the passage of this legislation to help create a culture of health in the Garden State.
New Jersey Survivor Ambassador
American Heart Association