Lawmakers: Convenience Stores Should Sell At Least 1 Product That Helps People Quit Smoking | Opinion

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By Richard Codey and Herb Conaway

For over a year and a half, COVID-19 has shaped our lives, canceling plans, separating us from friends and family, disrupting our livelihoods and causing feelings of grief, stress and anxiety. With the emergency phase of the pandemic now largely over and life starting to return to normal, there is no doubt that the crisis will continue to have long-term repercussions on mental and behavioral health. of New Jerseyans.

As lawmakers, we need to recognize this and do all we can to create policies and systems that promote well-being in the Garden State, especially in areas where we seemed to be losing ground during the pandemic. One of those areas that few talk about is smoking.

A recent report from the United States Federal Trade Commission shows that cigarette sales increased last year amid the pandemic, marking the first annual increase in two decades.

Equally concerning, another study has shown that fewer Americans have used smoking cessation services in the past year, raising questions that the pandemic may have halted progress in reducing tobacco use, even though smoking increases the risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Whether this is a trend or not, what we already know is that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It claims the lives of 11,800 New Jersey adults each year and 143,000 children in our state will die prematurely from smoking. The state’s annual health care costs directly caused by smoking are $ 4.6 billion, and smoking results in productivity losses of $ 3.15 billion each year.

It is important to note that these staggering figures predate the pandemic and do not include health costs caused by exposure to second-hand smoke, fires caused by smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, or the use of tobacco. cigars and pipes. All of this only further underscores the need for lawmakers to make it possible for more New Jerseyians to get rid of the habit as easily as possible. Putting smoking cessation products in stores where the overwhelming majority of cigarettes are sold is a good place to start. That is why we have introduced Bill A6020 / S4114 and encourage our colleagues in the Legislative Assembly to sign and support the bill.

Currently, smoking cessation products like nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) are not readily available in convenience stores, although convenience stores are where 92% of all cigarettes are sold in the market. Garden State. In fact, less than 3% of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is sold in convenience stores. This lack of access is not due to chance. Convenience stores are disproportionately located in low-income minority communities, presenting barriers to smoking cessation for these residents and further fueling disparities in tobacco use and its deleterious health effects.

With tobacco sales being the main source of revenue for the convenience store industry, there is little incentive for retailers to sell NRTs. In fact, customers who smoke tend to be regulars at convenience stores. With these retailers more densely located in neighborhoods with more low-income and marginalized residents, access to potentially life-saving NRT products is not equitable.

A6020 / S4114 would change that by requiring convenience stores to sell at least one NRT product, so that everyone in New Jersey, wherever they live, has access to the tools they need to help them quit smoking. and improve their overall health.

Studies show that using NRT products can almost double the chances of quitting smoking and increases quitting rates by 50% to 70% by relieving acute cravings for nicotine. Research shows that the average smoker begins to experience withdrawal symptoms within an hour of quitting their last cigarette. And with nearly half (45.8%) of quit attempts being spontaneous, meaning a smoker tries to quit as soon as they make the decision to do so, selling NRTs at convenience stores alongside of cigarettes could help support this decision to quit, treat acute nicotine cravings, and prevent relapse in cigarette use. Thinking about quitting smoking and having access to and seeing an NRT in front of you all go hand in hand with monitoring your efforts to quit smoking.

It’s no secret that Big Tobacco has a long history of targeting racial and ethnic communities, resulting in a higher number of smoking-related deaths. Strategic marketing, point-of-sale promotions, and the simple fact that there are more tobacco retailers in black, Latin, and low-income communities are all fueling this disproportionate impact. Research shows that the greater availability and exposure to tobacco products, in part due to the high density and proximity to retailers, is associated with increased smoking rates among youth and adults.

By increasing access to smoking cessation products in the same stores that sell the majority of tobacco products in the state, we can help facilitate cessation among these populations and help reduce health disparities. It is high time to provide all communities with equitable access to these vital commodities. Because when another New Jersey quits smoking, we all win.

State Senator Richard J. Codey represents the 27th Legislative District, which includes parts of Essex and Morris counties. Assembly member Herb Conaway Jr. represents the 7th Legislative District, which includes parts of Burlington County.

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