New Jersey lawmakers are considering raising non-cigarette tobacco prices to the same level as charged for cigarettes in hopes of adding money to the state budget to help fund tobacco-control programs. The state’s cigarette tax, $2.70 a pack, is one of the highest in the United States, reports NJSpotlight.com
The cigarette tax brings in almost $770 million a year, which helps pay off a state bond issue, reimburses hospitals for charity care, and helps finance general government costs.
Only $1.5 million went to tobacco control programs last year — down from $30 million in 2008. However, the extra money that would come in by equalizing taxes would be used to help with educational programs to help New Jersey residents — especially teens — keep off tobacco.
A non-cigarette tax hike could bring in $19 million in taxes, which advocates hope would be spent on the anti-smoking programs and could deter smoking by making it too expensive.
They also say higher taxes could help battle lung cancer, which killed 4,160 New Jersey residents last year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Democratic State Sen. Joseph Vitale, who chairs the Senate’s health committee, said he will seek to pass the tax parity legislation along with the 2013 state budget, which the legislature must pass — and Gov. Chris Christie must sign — before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
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