If you've switched from regular cigarettes to electronic cigarettes to save money, you might be paying a similar price in the future.

Gov. Chris Christie's administration is proposing to tax e-cigarettes at a similar rate as regular cigarettes, according to a report on NJ.com.

The rationale is for public health, according to the state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff.

“Our goal is to achieve rough parity with the tax burden on conventional cigarettes. Why? Our main concern is public health,” Sidamon-Eristoff said at an Assembly Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday. “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.”

The state anticipates $35 million in revenue by adding the $2.70 per pack regular state tax on cigarettes to the e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in the form of water vapor. Users of the products have vehemently opposed the tax.

At the same time, the Christie administration is being criticized by health advocates for not restoring funding to the state's anti-tobacco programs.

That funding, $7.5 million, was cut four years ago.

“We’ve been very disappointed in their approach to public health because they zeroed out the comprehensive tobacco control program two or three years ago and never replaced it,” said Dr. Fred Jacobs, a former state health commissioner who is president of the board of directors for Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy, said in a phone interview.

The American Lung Association ranked New Jersey 50th in the nation for spending on smoking control.

Steve Hughes

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