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November 18, 2010

New Jersey spent just $600,000 in 2010 on its tobacco prevention and cessation program, leading a coalition of public health organizations to rank the Garden State 46th in the country in terms of helping smokers to quit and preventing smoking. Just three years ago, New Jersey spent $11 million on these types of programs, but budget cuts have drastically reduced funding.

New Jersey will collect $961 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend just 0.1 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs, according to the coalition, which includes the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The group issued a report titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later.” In it, it says each year in New Jersey, tobacco claims 11,200 lives and costs the state $3.2 billion in healthcare bills. The group also says tobacco companies spend $226.3 million to market their products in New Jersey -- 377 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

The group chastised the state for what it says is a virtual elimination of its tobacco prevention program, which it says is just 0.5 percent of the $119.8 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco prevention, the coalition says, is a smart investment even in a tough budgetary climate because it saves lives and money by reducing healthcare costs.

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