Sun Editorial: A new study ranks New Jersey low in anti-smoking efforts, but notes improvement

The state still has work to do, but it’s encouraging to see that its efforts are being recognized.

By Alan Bauer
The Sun

New Jersey still has a way to go before it hits its marks when it comes to anti-smoking efforts, but it is moving in the right direction. So says a study released late last year from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The study ranked the state 48th for its efforts in 2018, but 34th for the 2019 fiscal year. Some of that ranking has to do with the amount of money spent on anti-smoking efforts. In 2018, that figure was only about $500,000. In 2019, it jumps to $7.2 million. That’s still far short of the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended $103.3 million.

But the study is right in that the state is moving in the right direction. In fact, the state has been working on the issue for some time, starting with the 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act that severely curtailed smoking in public places. Add to that recent laws, such as signage requirements for retailers and the move in 2017 to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. Even more, this year sees new smoking restrictions on beaches.

Also, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids ranks the state’s $2.70 per pack tax on cigarettes as the 11th highest in the nation. The national average is $1.79.

Outside of taxes and laws, the state Department of Health has the N.J. Quitline, a phone support system for individuals looking to quit, and can provide nicotine replacement starter kits to those ready to take the step.

These efforts should be appreciated by taxpayers, as the group also says residents pay $853 per household in taxes to cover state and federal smoking-related expenditures. Who wouldn’t like to see lower taxes?

Nationally, the trend is encouraging. There are about half as many smokers today as there were in the 1960s.

Education and support no doubt play a big part in discouraging children from starting to smoke and helping people who want to quit. We’re a few generations into everyone knowing the dangers of smoking.

And while the state still has work to do, it’s encouraging to see that its efforts are being recognized.