Pallone Admonishes Christie’s Refusal to Fund New Jersey’s Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) sent a letter to Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) admonishing his administration’s refusal to fund New Jersey’s Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program. Programs like this serve as a statewide effort to establish smoke-free policies, help tobacco users quit smoking, and prevent potential users from becoming addicted. The funding for New Jersey’s Tobacco Control Program was first slashed completely in Fiscal Year 2013 and has remained at zero since.
In 2014, Congressman Pallone wrote to Governor Christie’s office regarding the decision to cut all funding for the program with New Jersey ranked last that year among states in funding tobacco prevention activities. The CDC recommends that New Jersey allocate $92.4 million, or about 10 percent of its tobacco revenues in order to have a substantial effect on reducing smoking rates and tobacco-related death and disease in the state.
Congressman Pallone has repeatedly drawn attention to the risks that tobacco continues to pose to public health. Most recently, through the authority granted by a law that he co-authored, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began exercising greater oversight over electronic cigarettes and cigar sales to young adults. It is now illegal to sell cigars, hookah tobacco, and electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, with an ID check required to anyone under the age of 27. Retailers are not permitted to give away free samples of such tobacco products and retailers will not be allowed to sell cigars, hookah tobacco, and e-cigarettes in a vending machine where anyone under age 18 has access at any time.
The letter can be found below.
September 22, 2016
The Honorable Chris Christie
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Governor Christie:
I am writing out of concern that yet again, the state of New Jersey will not invest available funding in the Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program. In 2014, I wrote to your office regarding your decision to cut all funding for the program, especially as New Jersey ranked last that year among states in funding tobacco prevention activities. Unfortunately, despite being outspoken in your distaste for smoking and its toll on public health, you have continued to spend no state funds on the program.
Though in recent years, fewer youths are smoking cigarettes, greater numbers are taking up e-cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. I have worked in Congress to grant FDA greater authority to regulate these devices and worked to keep smokeless tobacco off of baseball fields because the fact is, though the nature of tobacco use has changed, it remains one of the single biggest threats to public health.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that tobacco prevention programs work and New Jersey has substantial funding sources that can be used. Your predecessor, Governor Corzine recognized this and invested significant state resources in the program, drawing funding from the state’s excise tax on tobacco sales and yearly payments made to the state through the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the major tobacco manufacturers.
This year, New Jersey will collect over $700 million in tobacco sales taxes and will receive over $224 million from the tobacco manufacturers through the MSA. These revenue streams exist because we all know that tobacco use is damaging to one’s health and this not only takes a toll on individuals, but also on public health programs like Medicaid.
Without investing in proven tobacco prevention strategies, with the revenue streams specifically created for this purpose, New Jersey residents will needlessly suffer. Smoking causes a range of fatal conditions, and in New Jersey, 11,800 people will die this year from its effects. But, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, for every person who dies, another 30 will continue to live while enduring the impacts of serious chronic conditions like diabetes, emphysema, and heart disease.
With health and financial impacts as serious as these, it is critical that New Jersey residents, and especially our youths, are fully aware of the consequences of tobacco use. We must prevent potential tobacco users from taking up the habit and must do more to connect those who have with proven cessation programs.
I urge you to reconsider your approach to this serious public health issue, and use tobacco-related revenue streams as they were intended. I urge you to make the investments necessary to ensure a healthy future for our state.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress