NJ ranks last in anti-smoking programs for kids
A new report titled "Broken Promises to our Children," finds New Jersey could be doing much better in its efforts to stop kids from smoking. In fact, the state ranks last in the nation when it comes to funding tobacco prevention programs.
"New Jersey actually ranks last, 51st out of all the states and the District of Columbia, when it comes to providing funds to fight tobacco and set up tobacco prevention programs," according to John Schachter, the director of State Communications for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
He said this year, New Jersey will collect almost $950 million from tobacco-related revenue, including funding from the 1998 landmark Tobacco Settlement and tobacco taxes - money that was supposed to be used to help prevent kids from smoking, but the report finds "the state devotes zero money to these programs - it's very distressing."
Schachter said The CDC has suggested that the Garden State spend $103 million on tobacco prevention programs.
"It's disappointing," he said. "We know this year about 7,000 New Jersey kids are going to start smoking. We know that about 11,800 people will die this year in New Jersey because of smoking related illnesses. The state will spend $4 billion in health care expenses treating tobacco-related illnesses - so we've seen there will be great cost in terms of lives and health."
Schachter said that in New Jersey, 12.9 percent of young people start smoking, but if even if that rate was cut in half "there would be almost 50,000 lives saved, and $2.5 billion in health care savings over the lifetime of these kids."
Schachter also said we know that tobacco companies spend huge amounts of money trying to get kids addicted to smoking.
"And we cannot do anything but spend our time and money keeping kids protected. We need to do a better job protecting our kids," he said.
He said in 1998, four major tobacco companies finally admitted their products were harmful to human health and agreed to dole out billions of dollars to the states for associated health care costs.
"The state is supposed to spend a lot of this money on programs that help kids not smoke, and help others to quit smoking," he said. "We know these programs have proven to work, we can't afford not to invest."