New Jersey is Only State That Spends Zero on Smoking Prevention

Matt Katz, WNYC News | December 9, 2015 | Katz on Christie

New Jersey ranks last in the country in spending on tobacco prevention, according to a new report.

Of 48 states surveyed by a consortium of groups that includes the American Cancer Society, New Jersey is the only one that does not earmark any state funds to help its residents stop smoking. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that New Jersey spend $103 million annually. 

Smoking has become an unlikely topic on Christie’s presidential campaign trail. He often speaks about his mother — most famously in this viral video, which has 8 million views and counting. “My mother was a smoker,” he says. “She smoked her whole life. She was addicted to nicotine.”

Christie says Sondra Christie tried everything to quit. But couldn’t. She later got lung cancer, and died in 2004. Christie says America should be as sympathetic to drug addicts as they are to smokers with cancer.

About 16 percent of New Jersey adults smoke, and the tobacco industry spends $186.8 million in marketing on the state each year, according to the report’s estimates.

Christie spokesman Brian Murray said that some money intended for tobacco cessation programs — revenue from a legal settlement with tobacco companies — was securitized by a prior administration to get cash to fund the general budget. New revenue from the tobacco settlement is now paying for debt service on those bonds, he said.

In an email, Murray added: “We are not sure how useful these studies are when not every state faces the same legacy of fiscal mismanagement and near-term budget demands – such as nearly 10 cents of every dollar spent in the NJ State budget going to employee health benefit costs and nearly 5 cents to pensions.”