Source: NJ Health. com
Money generated by Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed tax on electronic cigarettes should be used to expand drug treatment services and combat the “public health crisis” of heroin and prescription drug addiction in New Jersey, the chairman of the state Senate health committee said today.
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.
“A good deal of these resources” should pay for heroin and opioid addiction treatment, as well as smoking cessation programs that have been slashed by the last three governors, said Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
The task force’s suggestions included opening “recovery high schools” to support teens in treatment, launching a public awareness campaign that explains how addiction is an illness, expanding treatment services, and mandating that doctors take part in the state’s prescription monitoring program.
The committee met today with Celina Gray, the acting executive director for the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, who discussed the recent findings of a council task force that studied on the spread of opiate drug addiction and the rash of overdoses throughout the state.
But Sen. Fred Madden (D-Gloucester) said that all of these worthy ideas cost money.
“Where is the funding? ” Madden asked. “Is there a commitment by the administration we will get this stuff paid for?”
For his part, Vitale said he was hopeful.
“I am sure the governor, who is firmly committed to drug court and who has spoken publicly about our need to expand our resources,” will agree the money is better served to address the exploding drug addiction problem than funneling it into the “black hole” of the state budget.
Vitale also said even more revenue could be made for drug treatment and smoking cessation programs by raising the tax rate on smokeless tobacco products, which is a 30 percent levy retailers who purchase the product wholesale.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the proposed budget already dedicates $4.5 million from the e-cigarette tax revenue to continue the phase-in for the mandatory drug court initiative.
“As part of his proposal, did Sen. Vitale also propose specific cuts to offset the diversion of e-cig revenue?” Roberts inquired.
“A final budget will be a product of negotiations with the Legislature, which generally includes some changes from the proposed budget in February,” Roberts said.