Jun. 2 2002
Washington, DC — Vermont 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 75 cents a pack over two years. This is a win-win-win solution for Vermont 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 the Legislature for passing the 75-cent increase, and Governor Howard Dean, who has pledged to sign it. Once the full increase takes effect on July 1, 2003, Vermont's cigarette tax will be $1.19.
Higher cigarette taxes have been proven to reduce smoking – especially among kids. Vermont can expect this year's 49-cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 4,200 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 1,800 Vermonters from smoking-caused deaths, produce $71 million in long-term health care savings, and raise roughly $25 million a year in new revenue. Next year's 26-cent increase will bring even more benefits, though an immediate 75-cent increase would have brought the most benefits.
Vermonters strongly support a cigarette tax increase. A March poll released by public health groups found that three out of four Vermont voters (76 percent) supported a $1.06 per pack increase. This support comes from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Tobacco's toll in Vermont is devastating – 23.4 percent of youths currently smoke, and 1,900 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care expenses and productivity losses cost Vermont $355 million a year. Because of the cigarette tax increase, Vermont can look forward to reducing this terrible toll.
Vermont joins a growing number of states that have increased their cigarette taxes in recent months, including Ohio, 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 Vermont and other states in doing the right thing and enjoying the many health and economic benefits that will result.