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Health groups urge N.J. to spend more on smoking-cessation programs

A coalition of health groups is urging New Jersey to dedicate more cigarette tax revenue to programs that help people quit smoking.

The groups say less than 1 percent of the billion dollars a year New Jersey gets in tobacco revenue from taxes and as part of a national settlement with tobacco companies goes toward smoking-cessation programs. They’re pushing for funding for those programs to be increased by $30 million a year.

“We believe there’s a moral obligation to the smokers,” said Blair Horner, vice president of advocacy for the American Cancer Society in New Jersey. “It’s simply not fair to keep asking them–15 percent of the public we’re talking about roughly–to pay more and more and then offer them no way to quit.”

Dr. Fred Jacobs, former state Health Commissioner who now chairs the anti-tobacco coalition NJ Breathes, said it’s an easy choice.

“If the government won’t act to protect the health and safety of the people it serves, than what exactly is the role of the government at all?” he said Wednesday.

If more of the current revenue is not directed to stop smoking efforts, the health groups recommend increasing the state’s cigarette tax by a dollar a pack to help fund those programs.

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