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N.J. ranked worst in nation for trying to keep kids from smoking

For the fifth consecutive year, New Jersey will spend no money to deter kids from tobacco use or help smokers quit the habit, according to a public health advocacy organization which ranked the state last in the nation for its lack of effort.

Cigarette smoking among middle schoolers and high schools has been on the decline in New Jersey and nationally for the last decade, according to recent surveys.

But by allocating no state funding to discourage tobacco use, New Jersey does nothing to prevent an estimated 11,800 deaths every year that can be directly attributed to smoking, according to the Tobacco Free Kids Campaign.

Meanwhile, New Jersey will take in $944.5 million in taxes and revenue from the 1998 settlement with the tobacco companies, Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Young adults under 21 may continue buying tobacco and electronic cigarette products in New Jersey

“New Jersey is putting children’s health at risk and costing taxpayers money by refusing to fund tobacco prevention programs that save lives and health care dollars,” Myers said.

“Because of the tremendous progress our country has made in reducing smoking, it is within our reach to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free,” Myers said. New Jersey should be doing everything it can to protect kids from tobacco, including raising the tobacco age to 21.”

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation in January that would have raised the smoking age to 21. He did sign a smoking ban in state parks and beaches his year.

State Health Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner said smoking prevention and cessation programs exist in the state, but they are funded by the federal government.

The state uses $2.2 million in federal assistance to run NJ Quitline, 1-866-657-8677, a toll-free hotline and counseling service that offers nicotine replacement therapy such as gum and patches, she said.

The state also operates the Mom’s Quit Connection, linking pregnant women and new mothers who want to quit smoking with trained counselors, and an enforcement program that cracks down on vendors who sell cigarettes to minors 19 and younger.

The trends show smoking is on the decline, especially in New Jersey, Leusner said. “New Jersey’s youth smoking rate has been declining for a decade and is below the national average at 8.2 percent,” according to 2014 data, she said.

New Jersey’s adult smoking rate is well below the national average–15.1 percent vs. 18.1 percent, she added.

On Tuesday, a University of Michigan survey of about 45,000 middle-school and high-school students that found smoking rates have reach historic lows.

From 2015 to 2016, the percentage of youth who smoked in the past 30 days fell from 11.4 percent to 10.5 percent among 12th grader, from 6.3 percent to 4.9 percent among 10th graders, and from 3.6 percent to 2.6 percent among 8th graders, according to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey.

New Jersey is tied for last with Connecticut for allocating the least amount of state funds to curb tobacco use, the campaign said.

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