May. 30 2002
Washington, DC — Ohio 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 31 cents a pack. This is a win-win-win solution for Ohio 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. While we are disappointed that the Ohio General Assembly missed an opportunity to protect thousands more kids from becoming smokers by failing to pass a higher cigarette tax, we are pleased that the cigarette tax increase remained a part of the budget bill. This occurred despite vigorous opposition from the tobacco industry and its ‘front-groups.' Once Governor Bob Taft signs the bill and the full increase takes effect, Ohio's cigarette tax will be 55 cents a pack.
Ohio can expect a 31-cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 56,000 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 28,000 Ohioans from smoking-caused deaths, produce $1 billion in long-term health care savings, and raise hundreds of millions a year in new revenue.
Cigarette tax increases are popular with voters. Polls conducted in numerous, diverse states throughout the country have consistently shown broad public and voter support for cigarette-tax increases. In 17 different states, recent polls show strong majority support for an increase in the state's cigarette tax. In most states, voters favor the proposed cigarette tax increase by a two-to-one margin.
Next, Ohio leaders should raise their cigarette tax even higher while fully funding their tobacco prevention program. A report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that higher cigarette taxes and tobacco prevention programs are responsible for the most recent declines nationally in youth tobacco use.
Tobacco's toll in Ohio is devastating – 33.4 percent of youths currently smoke, and 38,600 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. Smoking-caused health care expenses and productivity losses cost Ohio $7.5 billion a year. Because of the cigarette tax increase, Ohio can look forward to reducing this terrible toll.
Ohio joins a growing number of states that have increased their cigarette taxes in recent months, including Kansas, Nebraska, Maryland, Connecticut, Utah, New York and Washington State. 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 Ohio and other states in doing the right thing and enjoying the many health and economic benefits that will result.