NEW JERSEY – Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. In addition to tobacco-related death and disease, smoking also increases the risk of the most severe impacts of COVID-19, making ending tobacco use more important than ever. This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association grades federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives.
The report finds that New Jersey earned failing grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.
Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. Much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGTBQ+ Americans and persons of lower income. To address this critical public health threat, “State of Tobacco Control” outlines solutions to close this gap and provides a roadmap for the federal and state policies needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use.
The 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while New Jersey has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including being the first in the nation to sign a law prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and advancing public health during the pandemic by reopening casinos in Atlantic City smokefree, elected officials should do more to save lives in 2021. To ensure all New Jersey residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, the American Lung Association urges New Jersey to amend the flavored tobacco prohibition law to include all flavored products, including mint and menthol; and to pass a law ensuring the Atlantic City casinos remain smokefree.
“In New Jersey our adult smoking rates are 13.1% and our youth e-cigarette rate is 27.6%. The surge in youth vaping combined with the fact that smoking increases the chance of severe COVID-19 symptoms, make it more important than ever for New Jersey to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” American Lung Association National AVP, State Public Policy Michael Seilback said.
New Jersey’s Grades:
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. New Jersey received the following grades:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D
- New: Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade D
The American Lung Association encourages New Jersey to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control.” In particular, this year’s report noted the need to focus on:
- Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products. In 2019, about 8,000 kids began vaping every day – typically with flavored e-cigarettes – setting them up for a lifetime of addiction to nicotine. Ending the sale of ALL flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke on Black and Brown communities. Menthol cigarettes remain a key vector for tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with 82% of Black Americans who smoke using them. “Kids follow the flavors and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New Jersey is key to ending the youth e-cigarette epidemic and youth tobacco use overall. We call on legislators in Trenton to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol across the Garden State,” said Michael Seilback.
- Increasing tobacco taxes. One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth is to significantly increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Multiple studies have shown that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about four percent among adults and about seven percent among youth. “To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in New Jersey encourages the state to increase cigarette taxes by $1.65 per pack and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars with its cigarette tax,” said Seilback.
- Expand New Jersey’s comprehensive smokefree law to include casinos. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. “Passing a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, including casinos, would protect casino workers and patrons from deadly secondhand smoke,” said Seilback.
Federal Grades Overview:
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 also grades the federal government in five areas:
- Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2021 grade – D)
- Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2021 grade – D)
- Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2021 grade – F)
- Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2021 grade – A)
- Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2021 grade – A)
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 provides an important roadmap on how states like New Jersey and the federal government can put in place the policies proven to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Because of COVID-19, we are all thinking more about lung health. Now is the time for lawmakers in New Jersey to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” Seilback said.