Maine and Rhode Island Lawmakers Show Leadership In Protecting Kids from Tobacco by Increasing Cigarette Tax

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 29 2001

Washington, DC — Lawmakers in Maine and Rhode Island have shown commendable leadership in protecting kids from tobacco by voting to increase cigarette excise taxes in their states. Maine's Legislature recently enacted a 26-cent per pack increase, while the Rhode Island Senate Thursday joined the House in approving a 29-cent increase. When the changes go into effect, both states' total cigarette tax will be $1.00 per pack. Maine and Rhode Island would then be tied with Alaska and Hawaii in having the second highest cigarette taxes in the nation after New York, which has a cigarette tax of $1.11 per pack.

Increasing the cigarette tax is a win-win situation for kids and taxpayers. It is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use among kids, while also raising much-needed revenue for states grappling with budget shortfalls. Maine and Rhode are pointing the way for other states in New England and across the country to enact cigarette tax increases that can protect kids from tobacco addiction, reduce the death, disease and health care costs caused by tobacco use and fund vital state programs.

These achievements in Rhode Island and Maine are the first results of a months-long campaign by the Alliance for a Healthy New England to increase tobacco excise taxes in each of the six New England states in order to decrease tobacco use and improve access to health care. The Alliance is the most inclusive partnership of health access, health care provider, consumer and tobacco control organizations ever formed in New England. Alliance members include the American Cancer Society, New England Division; Community Catalyst, a national consumer advocacy organization; and the Council of New England State Medical Societies. We commend the Alliance for its commitment and leadership in protecting the public health.

Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of cigarette excise tax increases in reducing youth tobacco use. A study released in April by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that a ten percent increase in the price of cigarettes would decrease the number of children who start to smoke by up to ten percent. According to a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids analysis based on this study, if cigarette prices were raised 10 percent per pack nationwide, it would reduce the number of kids who become regular smokers by over a million. It would also save more than 350,000 kids alive today from dying prematurely from smoking-caused disease.

In Maine, 28.6 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 7,000 kids become regular smokers every year. The state spends $337 million each year on tobacco-related health expenditures. The 26-cent cigarette tax increase will save 4,400 Maine kids from the addiction, disease and death caused by smoking, save $70 million in long-term health care costs and bring in $27.1 million in new revenue each year, according to an analysis by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In Rhode Island, 35.4 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 5,000 kids become regular smokers every year. The state spends $348 million each year on tobacco-related health expenditures. The 29-cent cigarette tax increase will save 3,900 Rhode Island kids from the addiction, disease and death caused by smoking, save $60 million in long-term health care costs and bring in $24 million in new revenue each year.

By listening to the voters, who overwhelmingly favor increasing the cigarette tax, rather than to tobacco industry lobbyists, lawmakers in Maine and Rhode Island have taken bold steps to protect kids and reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

 

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