May. 17 2002
Washington, DC — Kansas leaders have taken an important step toward protecting the state's kids and taxpayers from the devastating toll of tobacco by increasing the cigarette tax by 55 cents a pack. This is a win-win-win solution for Kansas that will reduce smoking among both kids and adults, save lives by reducing smoking-caused disease and raise much-needed revenue to help balance the state budget. We applaud Governor Bill Graves for his leadership in proposing a cigarette tax increase and the Legislature for enacting the 55-cent increase into law yesterday. Once the full increase takes effect on January 1, 2003, Kansas' cigarette tax will be 79 cents a pack.
Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes will reduce youth smoking by seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by three to five percent. Kansas can expect a 55-cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 20,500 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 9,700 Kansans from smoking-caused deaths, produce $365 million in long-term health care savings, and raise roughly $103 million a year in new revenue.
Kansans strongly support a cigarette tax increase. A January poll released by public health groups found that 72 percent of Kansas voters supported a 75-cent per pack increase. This support comes from Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Voters also wanted some of the cigarette tax revenue to be used to fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that would further reduce tobacco's financial and health costs in the state. While the cigarette tax increase is a major step forward, if Kansas wants to continue to reduce smoking and the harm it causes, the state's leaders also need to adequately fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention program using some of its tobacco settlement proceeds or cigarette tax revenue.
Tobacco's toll in Kansas is devastating – 26.1 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 7,000 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care expenses and productivity losses cost Kansas $1.46 billion a year. Because of the cigarette tax increase, Kansas can look forward to reducing this terrible toll.
Kansas joins a growing number of states that have increased their cigarette taxes in recent months, including Nebraska, Maryland, Connecticut, Utah, New York and Washington State. In addition, the New York Legislature this week authorized New York City to increase its cigarette tax from 8 cents to $1.50 a pack, and Rhode Island budget negotiators have agreed to increase their state's cigarette tax by 31 cents to $1.31 per pack, with more increases planned in future years. These measures have been approved by governors and legislatures of both political parties, as well as by voters in Washington, underscoring the broad political support for cigarette tax increases. The many states still considering cigarette tax increases should join Kansas and other states in doing the right thing and enjoying the many health and economic benefits that will result.