National Report Ranks New Jersey Last for Efforts to Control Tobacco Use by Children

Tobacco-dependence Experts Advocate for Reinstatement of New Jersey Tobacco Control Program

Released: 12/20/2013 3:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
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Newswise — New Brunswick, NJ – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a coalition of public health organizations, has ranked New Jersey 51 in the nation, including Washington D.C., in protecting children from smoking and tobacco use. Experts at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, are urging the state to reconsider utilizing funds from the 1998 Tobacco Settlement to reinstate the state’s comprehensive Tobacco Control Program, which was eliminated in 2009.

“New Jersey is the only state that spends nothing to support tobacco prevention and treatment programs, despite receiving funds from the Tobacco Settlement and earning tobacco-generated revenue of more than $947 million in Fiscal Year 2014,” said Jill M. Williams, MD, a professor of psychiatry and chief of addiction psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Treating – and preventing – tobacco dependence has been shown by several states to have a direct savings on healthcare costs related to smoking such as heart attacks, lung and other cancers.”

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, annual healthcare costs that can be contributed to smoking are $317 billion in New Jersey, $967 million of which is covered by the state Medicaid program. Medicaid is the primary health insurer for persons with mental illness in the U.S.

“Significant health disparities exist in New Jersey, where there are very high rates of smoking among the poor and individuals with mental illness,” Dr. Williams said. “Ignoring the need to provide our most vulnerable citizens with accessible, effective smoking cessation programs not only affects their health, but increases long-term healthcare costs and ultimately affects the wallets of New Jersey’s taxpayers.”

In a published editorial piece last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, Williams and her colleagues underscored the need for collaborative, sustained efforts in treating tobacco addiction. To combat reliance on tobacco in mental health populations, the experts agreed that mental health services and government-sponsored tobacco control programs must work together to improve education and access to smoking cessation programs.

“New Jersey has dedicated health professionals who are looking to work with the state on collaborative efforts that can increase opportunities for prevention and wellness services, and broaden access to smoking cessation programs through clinical care,” explained Williams, who chairs the New Jersey Breathes Coalition. “Reinstating funding for a tobacco control program in the next state budget can result in comprehensive services to treat tobacco addiction and help New Jersey prevent smoking and reliance on other tobacco products for our children.”

The report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, “Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement Fifteen Years Later,” can be found at: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what_we_do/state_local/tobacco_settlement/. Additional information on the effects of tobacco on the health and finances of New Jersey may be found at: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/facts_issues/toll_us/new_jersey.

About Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
As one of the nation's leading comprehensive medical schools, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. In cooperation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school's principal affiliate, they comprise New Jersey's premier academic medical center. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 20 basic science and clinical departments, and hosts centers and institutes including The Cardiovascular Institute, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students on its campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs. To learn more about Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, visit rwjms.rutgers.edu. Find us online at facebook.com/RWJMedicalSchool and twitter.com/RWJMS.

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