New Jersey prohibits smoking in most public spaces, and bumped up the minimum age to 21 for tobacco purchases in 2017. The adult smoking rate in New Jersey has dropped a few percentage points over the past few years.

But the Garden State receives mostly failing grades in a scorecard released Wednesday by the American Lung Association, on states' efforts to reduce and prevent the use of tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

"While we have seen considerable progress in New Jersey, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 11,780 lives each year," said Michael Seilback, national assistant vice president for state policy at the American Lung Association.

The 20th annual "State of Tobacco Control" report claims New Jersey can do much more in order to avoid "losing another generation to nicotine addiction."

The report specifically calls on New Jersey to expand the smokefree law to include casinos in Atlantic City. The gaming halls reopened smokefree from their pandemic-induced closure in 2020, but smoking was reintroduced in July 2021.

New Jersey lawmakers recently introduced legislation to ban smoking in casinos.

The American Lung Association also wants New Jersey to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Gov. Phil Murphy in Jan. 2020 signed legislation to make New Jersey the first state in the U.S. to impose a permanent ban on flavored vape products, including menthol.

"Menthol cigarettes continue to get sold in New Jersey, flavored hookah products," Seilback said. "We're saying let's get rid of all the flavors."

According to the report, New Jersey has not increased its tobacco tax since 2009. The American Lung Association suggests that a significant increase to the tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use among low-income individuals and youth.

"For every 10% increase in price, we see reductions in consumption, as well as users," Seilback said.

According to the 2020 New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, about 10.8% of New Jersey adults smoke cigarettes regularly. That's down from 13.5% in 2018.

New Jersey 2022 grades (American Lung Association):

  • Funding for state tobacco prevention programs — F
  • Strength of smokefree workplace laws — A
  • Level of state tobacco taxes — F
  • Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco — F
  • Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products — D

The American Lung Association claims New Jersey needs to improve its information sharing with the public, regarding ways to quit and the help that is available. In response, the New Jersey Department of Health led New Jersey 101.5 to resources available on their Office of Tobacco Control and Prevention website.

DOH added that New Jersey funds Tobacco-Free for a Healthy New Jersey, which coordinates tobacco prevention efforts across the state.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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