Jul. 14 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – It is terrific news for Pennsylvania’s kids and health that the Legislature has approved – and Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law – a $1 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax. The tobacco tax increase is truly a win-win-win solution for Pennsylvania – a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will help raise needed revenue, and a political win that polls show is popular with voters. We applaud Gov. Wolf for his leadership in proposing a strong cigarette tax increase and the lawmakers who joined him in siding with kids over the tobacco industry.
In addition, the state took long-overdue action by taxing – for the first time ever – other tobacco products (OTPs) such as smokeless, pipe and roll-your-own tobacco. Pennsylvania is the last state to do so. State leaders also implemented a tax on electronic cigarettes.
But lawmakers missed an opportunity to discourage kids from using any tobacco product by exempting large cigars and most cigarillos from the tax (one of only two states to do so) and by implementing a weight-based tax on OTPs. The weight-based tax could encourage consumers, particularly youth, to use lower-weight – and therefore more affordable – smokeless products. And, since the weight-based tax on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco is much lower than the cigarette tax, it could drive cigarette smokers to switch to smoking those products rather than quitting, which would not reduce their health risk.
The evidence is clear that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. Nationally, studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. Pennsylvania can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to:
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Pennsylvania, claiming 22,000 lives each year and costing the state more than $6.3 billion annually in health care bills. While Pennsylvania has made progress in reducing youth smoking, 12.9 percent of high school students still smoke and 9,200 kids become new regular smokers every year.
With Pennsylvania’s increase to $2.60 per pack, the average state cigarette tax will be $1.65 per pack. We call on states across the nation to significantly increase their tobacco taxes to reduce tobacco use and its devastating health and financial toll.