1. Increase the tobacco tax and create tax parity between the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes;
2. Secure state tobacco prevention and cessation funding; and
3. Increase the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
New Jersey takes in about $920 million from tobacco Master Settlement Agreement payments and tobacco taxes, but since 2010, ZERO state dollars have been allocated to tobacco prevention and cessation efforts. New Jersey is one of only two states that is failing to spend any of its tobacco-related revenue in fiscal year 2017 to fight the state's leading cause of preventable death.
In 2015, a bill to increase the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 was introduced and passed in both chambers of the legislature. Gov. Chris Christie unfortunately vetoed the bill. However, the bill was reintroduced in both the House and Senate in 2016, and has passed in the Assembly Health Committee and is currently being considered in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee voted on a bill, which provides for the expansion of the state Medicaid program to include coverage for comprehensive tobacco cessation benefits, as recommended by the American Lung Association in New Jersey and others. The Lung Association supports coverage of a comprehensive benefit, as identified in the Public Health Service Guideline - Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update.
The American Lung Association in New Jersey also supported a bill that would have prohibited smoking in public parks and on public beaches. The bill passed both chambers of the legislature, but the bill was also vetoed by Governor Christie.
Several bills were introduced in 2016 that would have directed a portion of new or existing revenue to support tobacco prevention and cessation efforts. These bills ranged from a percentage of existing tax revenue being dedicated, a one-time appropriation and to create tax parity between the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. However, none of the bills advanced in the legislature.
Finally, the Senate Health Committee voted on legislation to eliminate the sale and distribution of flavored e-cigarettes in New Jersey.
The American Lung Association in New Jersey will continue to educate lawmakers on the ongoing fight against tobacco. Our goal is to build champions within the legislature and a groundswell of advocates to advance our goals: the equalization of taxes on other tobacco products, increase the age to purchase tobacco to 21 years and funding to prevent our youth from starting to smoke as well as helping individuals who want to quit to do so.