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New Jersey falls short – very short – when it comes to tobacco prevention and cessation programs, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

A report released last month suggests New Jersey (as well as our Pennsylvanian neighbors) doesn’t put nearly enough resources toward programs and policies that combat cancer caused by smoking and other tobacco usage.

The ACS’s report, titled “How Do You Measure Up?,” rates states using benchmarks to measure the strength of policies such as tobacco taxes, smoke-free workplace laws, tobacco cessation program funding and cessation coverage under Medicaid.

Annually, Pennsylvania spends only 10 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, and the state meets only four of the ACS’s benchmarks.

While New Jersey meets five of the benchmarks, the study shows the state has no funding at all for tobacco control programs, and services provided for tobacco cessation are lacking.

It’s not all bad news, though. New Jersey ranks high when it comes to two of the benchmarks – tobacco excise taxes and smoke-free laws. The age at which it is legal to buy tobacco products in N.J. is 19 – a year higher than in much of the country.

The state’s Smoke-Free Air Act passed in 2006, outlawing smoking in all indoor public places and workplaces, and in 2010 an amendment extending the law to e-cigarettes was the first of its kind in the nation.

New Jersey’s cigarette excise tax rate is $2.70, above the national average of $1.65 per pack. Making cigarettes more expensive, the ACS says, makes minors less likely to begin smoking and encourages cessation.

According to the ACS, tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths. Lung cancer is both the leading cause of death in the nation and the most preventable form of cancer.

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