Policy group: New Jersey cigarette ban more costly than it’s worth

(The Center Square) – Sales tax losses would eclipse $200 million, and the number of smokers would only drop slightly should New Jersey pass a law banning menthol in cigarettes.

That’s the summation of author Adam Hoffer of the the Tax Foundation, a leading independent tax policy nonprofit, on legislation proposed in the Garden State.

Hoffer writes, “Declines in legal sales don’t necessarily translate to smokers quitting their habit. Consumers facing a ban may simply look for products for sale in other jurisdictions or from illicit markets. Data from discarded (smoked) cigarette packs show that consumers drove to other states to buy their cigarettes or supported other cigarette smuggling operations.”

Assembly Bill 1989, as prefiled for the 2022 session, is sponsored by Burlington Democrats Herb Conaway Jr. and Carol Murphy. The bill “prohibits sale of menthol cigarettes and sale or distribution of flavored electronic smoking devices and related products.”

The bill next gets technical review by the Legislative Counsel.

The Tax Foundation analysis says when Massachusetts banned menthol cigarette sales in June 2020, state cigarette sales fell nearly 24% in the first year. And New Hampshire sales went up 22% and Rhode Island 18%.

Massachusetts, Hoffer writes, lost $116 million. Two bills seeking repeal of the ban were introduced less than a year later.

New Jersey, the policy group assesses, is a destination place for less expensive cigarette purchases. Opposition to the ban already exists from the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing Blacks would be significantly impacted. Small businesses and convenience stores, Hoffer writes, also would be harmed.

The Tax Foundation analysis concludes, “New Jersey’s proposed menthol ban has high costs and the potential to create serious harm to New Jersey residents and businesses. Lawmakers should be weary of flavor bans after seeing the results in Massachusetts.”

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