20th Annual ‘State of Tobacco Control’ Report Reveals New Jersey Still Lags Behind on Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use

Listen to SBN's exclusive interview with Andrew Berman, M.D., American Lung Association Local Leadership Board Member, Director, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Allergy and Rheumatology, Rutger’s Health.

New report reveals New Jersey tobacco control successes over past 20 years, and outlines path to end tobacco use and save lives 

TRENTON, NJ (SBN) –  New Jersey earned mostly failing grades for failing to enact policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes in the American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report.

The report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. 

SBN correspondent Steve Lubetkin spoke exclusively with Dr. Andrew Berman, Division Director of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a member of the American Lung Association’s local leadership board. You can hear that interview in the player below.

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smoke-free laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs.  

New Jersey’s Grades  

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and New Jersey in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. New Jersey received the following grades:  

  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F 
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A 
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F 
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F 
  5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   – Grade D  

This year’s report noted the need for New Jersey policymakers to focus on expanding the smokefree law by making all casinos smokefree; prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products and increasing the cigarette tax and tax on other products by a significant amount.   

Expand the Smokefree Law. In September 2020, New Jersey took a major step in advancing public health by reopening Atlantic City casinos smokefree during the pandemic, but unfortunately, in 2021, legislation passed that ended the state’s Public Health Emergency, and many of the protections that were enacted – including prohibition of smoking in the casinos.  

End the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 81% of Black Americans who smoke using them. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.   

“Kids follow the flavors, so ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New Jersey is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on legislators in Trenton to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, across New Jersey,” said Seilback. 

Significantly Increase 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% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth. New Jersey has not increased its tobacco tax since 2009. 

Here in New Jersey in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made strides to reduce tobacco use, like passing smokefree air laws, but unfortunately, they have failed to protect workers and the public from tobacco smoke in casinos leaving much more work to be done to save lives. The adult smoking rate is 10.8%, and the state has provided no data for the high school tobacco use rate – an omission that means a void in monitoring the state’s efforts and success in working to end the youth vaping epidemic.  

“While we have seen considerable progress in New Jersey, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 11,780 lives each year,” said Michael Seilback, AVP, National Public Policy, at the American Lung Association. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities. Lastly, we call on the State of New Jersey to improve its information sharing with the public as it is far too difficult for a smoker in New Jersey to find out what quit smoking benefits are available to them.” 

“The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Seilback (left). “Passing a permanent smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos, would protect workers across the state from deadly secondhand smoke. E-cigarettes should also be included in comprehensive smokefree laws.” 

“To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in New Jersey encourages legislators to increase cigarette taxes to $4.35 per pack and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars with its cigarette tax,” said Seilback. 

Federal Grades Overview 

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas:  

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D) 
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D) 
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F) 
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A) 
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*) 

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute. 

“In 2022, New Jersey needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death,” said Seilback.