Jun. 6 2002
Washington, DC — We applaud Governor Mark Schweiker's proposals to increase Pennsylvania's cigarette tax by 69-cents to $1.00 per pack, and to tax smokeless tobacco products for the first time in state history. The proposed tobacco tax increase is a win-win-win solution for Pennsylvania. It's a win for the public's health because it will reduce smoking among both kids and adults and save lives by reducing tobacco-caused disease. It's a financial win for the state because it will raise much-needed revenue to help balance the state budget. And, it's a political win for Pennsylvania lawmakers because tobacco taxes are strongly supported by the state's voters. In short, increasing the tobacco tax is one of the most important public health measures Pennsylvania's leaders can enact.
Pennsylvania can expect a 69 cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 190,000 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 90,000 Pennsylvanians from smoking-caused deaths, produce $3.3 billion in long-term health care savings, and raise roughly $896 million a year in new revenue.
Pennsylvania voters strongly support a cigarette tax increase. A May poll released by public health groups found that three out of four Pennsylvania voters (75 percent) supported a $1.00 per pack increase. This support comes from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Tobacco's toll in Pennsylvania is devastating – 27.6 percent of youths currently smoke, and 38,100 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care expenses and productivity losses cost Pennsylvania $7.9 billion a year. With a higher tobacco tax, Pennsylvania can reduce this terrible toll.
A growing number of states have increased their tobacco taxes in recent months, including Vermont, Ohio, Nebraska, Maryland, Connecticut, Kansas, 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 tobacco tax increases. Pennsylvania should join these states in doing the right thing and enjoying the many health and economic benefits that will result.