Faced with a growing budget deficit, a new poll released today shows that 73 percent of Nebraska voters surveyed support raising the tobacco tax by $1.35 per pack to help fix the state's finances and fund healthcare programs, including programs to reduce tobacco use among kids. Support cuts across party lines, with 74 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independent voters supporting the tobacco tax increase.
The poll is being released by a coalition of public health groups including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Nebraska and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Nebraska is facing an unprecedented budget shortfall of $986 million for the fiscal years 2011 and 2012. Vital public health programs and services, already cut in previous sessions of the Legislature, are at risk of further cuts. The legislature can, however, solve some of the state's budget woes by increasing the cigarette tax by $1.35 per pack or more.
This increase can help save critical programs and services, save kids from addiction to tobacco and encourage current smokers to quit.
The fact is, economic research confirms that when tobacco prices increase, smoking decreases. Research shows that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by about three to five percent. It reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5 percent. And it reduces the number of kids who smoke by about six or seven percent.
Nebraska lags behind other states on this issue. Thirty-seven other states have cigarette taxes that are higher than Nebraska's. Nebraska cigarette tax per pack is 64 cents, compared to the overall state average of $1.45 per pack.