Dear Governor Christie:
It has come to my attention that New Jersey's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program has been eliminated, cutting all funding for tobacco control programs. I find it unconscionable that New Jersey ranks last among the 50 states and District of Columbia in meeting the funding levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The state collects about $1 billion each year in tobacco-related revenues, yet it is the only state to dedicate nothing to tobacco prevention and cessation programs in fiscal year 2014.
CDC recommends that New Jersey allocate $103.3 million, or about 10 percent of its tobacco revenues, toward prevention and cessation programs in order to have a substantial effect on reducing smoking rates and tobacco-related death and disease. Though I recognize that resources are limited and state budgets across the country are tight, it is unacceptable to zero out the funding for tobacco control programs completely.
The economic toll of tobacco use in health expenditures and lost productivity will end up costing New Jerseyans more than front-end investment in prevention. The most recent CDC estimate of medical costs in the state due to smoking is over $4 billion annually, and about a third of those costs are sustained by Medicaid. In addition, CDC has estimated that smoking contributes to over $2 billion in lost productivity costs.
Comprehensive tobacco control programs do work in reducing youth initiation of smoking and tobacco-related death, disease, health care costs, and lost productivity. More than 6,000 children become new daily smokers every year in New Jersey, and over 10,000 adult residents die each year due to smoking. States such as New York and California that have made larger, sustained investments in tobacco control have seen a faster decline in smoking prevalence both in youth and adults as funding for these programs increased.
I urge you not to sacrifice state tobacco prevention programs in an attempt to balance the state budget. Tobacco-related revenues collected by the state should be substantially used for the public health, especially in preventing tobacco use in children and adolescents.