NJ should spend on smoking prevention
Cigarettes are expensive in New Jersey. Our state has the sixth-highest cigarette tax in the nation at $2.70 per pack. Given that there are more than 1 million people lighting up in New Jersey that makes for a pretty powerful revenue stream. But of all that money, a rather measly portion is going to smoking prevention programs. As things currently stand, the state government only contributes 1 cent from every tobacco tax dollar earned to smoking cessation efforts. This has led to some understandable upset amongst anti-smoking groups in the state, who are convening to ask Gov. Chris Christie and the state legislature to step up their efforts and start contributing 10 cents of every tobacco tax dollar. This, we think, is a pretty reasonable request. If the government does agree to this, anti-smoking programs will receive $30 million to aid their efforts.
As long as there are smokers in New Jersey, there will be people suffering from the array of ills that the practice can inflict — including lung cancer, heart attacks, and emphysema, to name a grisly few. Diseases such as these are expensive for everyone involved, including doctors, insurance companies and the people suffering from them. Aside from and more importantly than the question of money, it is also an issue of human suffering. Smoking does, in fact, kill, and the state should do whatever it can to stem the tide of smoking deaths in New Jersey.
The money is clearly there to support an initiative like this. New Jersey made $750 million last fiscal year in tax money from tobacco products. The anti-smoking groups are asking for a comparatively meager $30 million of that, but think of all the good that money could bring by way of prevention campaigns and cessation aids. We know that New Jersey, like every other state in the United States, is in the midst of a financial semi-crisis, and so it needs all the money it can get. This seems like a case wherein we can safely indulge, knowing that this money would be going to an absolutely great cause.
For all the bad which smoking brings, here is a chance for tobacco to, in an odd way, give back to the community it ravages: by indirectly helping these anti-smoking groups fund the sorts of programs that will save lives and keep people from putting themselves in danger in the first place.