By: ATSI Admin
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Could E-Cigarette Taxes Be the Answer to New Jersey Drug Reform?
In 2010, New Jersey became one of the first states to enact a ban on public use of electronic cigarettes. As part of Jersey’s 2015 budget plan, NJ Governor Chris Christie has proposed an e-cigarette tax—and a state Senate committee recently discussed using the money generated from the tax to expand drug treatment services, considering the deadly rise in statewide heroin and prescription drug addiction.
Back in February, we reported that the number of people between ages 18-25 who sought treatment for opiate addiction jumped by 12 percent from 2010 to 2011, and there were 368 deaths related to heroin in the state’s 21 counties in 2011, up from 287 in 2010. Prescription painkillers and heroin are both part of the opiate category of drugs.
Seeking to Reform
According to NJ.com, “Christie’s proposed budget anticipates $35 million in new revenue by applying the $2.70 per pack regular state tax on cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in the form of water vapor.”
In addition to the tax, the Governor’s task force is also looking to:
- open recovery high schools to support teens in treatment.
- launch a public awareness campaign that explains how addiction is an illness.
- expand treatment services.
- mandate that doctors take part in NJ’s prescription monitoring program.
A Matter of Health
Another reason Christie’s camp wants to tax e-cigarettes? Simply put, for the interest of public health.
While some public health experts say e-cigarettes may be a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes that burn, they also say it’s a bad idea to encourage their use among young people especially. After all, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco. According to NBC, 90 percent of smokers start smoking by the age of 20, and public health experts worry that e-cigarettes sold in flavors such as bubble gum and Gummi bear are targeted mainly to young people.
Legacy, an anti-tobacco organization, found that e-cigarette makers spent $39 million on ads from June through November 2013, which reached 29.3 million teens and young adults from January through November 2013, including 58 percent of 12-to 17-year-olds. State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff says, “Contrary to the claims of some users, e-cigarettes have not been shown to be a ‘safe’ alternative to regular cigarettes. Nor are they a proven path to smoking cessation.”
Finding a Solution
Though the recent Senate meeting ended with no concrete solutions, NJ legislators remain on a mission to come together in order resolve the problem at hand, which is the alarming rate of opiate addiction and overdoses in New Jersey. Whether e-cigarettes are taxed or the Senate decides to focus on other means of funding, one thing is for sure: New Jersey needs treatment that is effective and evidence-based, and programs heavily focused on education and prevention.
Do you think e-cigarettes should be taxed just like regular cigarettes?