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NJ Lawmaker Rolls Out A Plan To Discourage Teen Smoking [AUDIO]

A Garden state lawmaker is moving ahead with a plan to make it more expensive to purchase one type of tobacco that’s becoming increasingly popular with teenagers – mini cigars – sometimes called cigarillos.

Flickr User StevenDepolo

State Senator Joe Vitale, who Chairs the State Senate Health Committee says right now “the mini cigars aren’t taxed the same way that cigars are, the same way cigarettes are- it’s a product that’s being used more and more by young people.”

He says the minis are significantly less expensive that cigarettes are – based on the product cost and the tax – and “we know that when the costs are higher or greater, there is less of an opportunity, less of a will for young people to smoke or start smoking.”

Vitale points out his legislation calls for all monies raised to be dedicated to anti-smoking programs – which is important because “we have -over the past several years – under at least two Governors – seen a significant decrease in the level of funding for anti-smoking programs in New Jersey – programs that have been historically very effective – not only to help people to stop smoking, but also to prevent people from smoking, and that’s really the goal of this – this isn’t about raising taxes to put into a black hole- this is about raising additional resources to help people quit smoking which is a very important public health issue.”

He says it’s estimated the increase would raise an additional 19 to 22 million dollars in the first year- and tobacco usage could decline by as much as 38 percent.

Vitale also says he’s also looking at applying the tax to smokeless tobacco products as well.

The current tax on small cigars is 27 cents a pack – and Vitale’s legislation would boost that to around the same amount as a pack of cigarettes – which is 2 dollars and 70 cents – which would almost double the retail price of the minis.

“This really not only reduces the usage of cigarettes and cigarillos” he says, “but it also saves the system millions of dollars in healthcare costs, when people either don’t smoke or quit.”

When asked if he’s discussed his measure with Governor Christie, Vitale said not yet, but ” I have an obligation as a Legislator and Chairman of the Health Committee to try to promote what is really sound public health policy…I’m sure the Christie Administration cares- they don’t want people to smoke- no one wants people to smoke unless you’re Phillip Morris.”

The measure will be formally introduced in the next few weeks.

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