Nov. 6 2002
Washington, D.C. — Arizona's voters delivered a loud and clear message Tuesday: protect kids, not the tobacco industry. The state's voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 303 to increase the state cigarette tax by 60 cents a pack and use some of the new revenue to restore funding for the state's highly successful tobacco prevention program. With this one-two punch of prevention spending and a cigarette tax increase, Arizona can look forward to continuing to reduce smoking among both kids and adults, saving lives, and saving money for taxpayers by reducing smoking-caused health care costs. The cigarette tax will raise $280 million a year to fund tobacco prevention and meet other important health care needs in these difficult budget times. The 66 percent to 34 percent vote also shows once again that cigarette tax increases are a win-win-win solution for states across the country – a health win, a fiscal win, and a political win.
The passage of Proposition 303 marks the second time in eight years that the voters of Arizona have sent a clear message that they want their kids protected from tobacco through a well-funded tobacco prevention program. Voters in 1994 increased the state sales tax on tobacco and funded what has become one of the nation's oldest and most successful tobacco prevention programs, the Tobacco Education and Prevention Program (TEPP). Unfortunately, Governor Jane Dee Hull and the Legislature in the past year overrode the voters' intent and cut funding for tobacco prevention in half, from $36.6 million to $18.3 million. Proposition 303 puts Arizona back on a path to being a national leader in protecting kids from tobacco.
Higher cigarette taxes have been proven to reduce smoking – especially among kids. Arizona can expect a 60 cents per pack tax increase to prevent some 25,000 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 12,000 Arizona residents from smoking-caused deaths, and produce $470 million in long-term health care savings. By restoring funding for tobacco prevention in FY2003, this initiative makes Arizona one of only five states to the meet the spending recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Arizona has shown the nation that tobacco prevention works. The state's pioneering program reduced smoking rates by 21 percent among adults and 24 percent among young adults from 1996 to 1999. However, experience in other states has shown that this progress can quickly be reversed if funding is not sustained. If Arizona does maintain its commitment to tobacco prevention, it can look forward not only to further reductions in smoking, but to saving lives and saving money as well. Studies show California, which started the nation's oldest tobacco prevention program in 1990, has saved tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused birth complications, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer. And the best programs are saving up to $3 in health care costs for every dollar spent on the programs.
Tobacco's toll in Arizona is devastating – 19 percent of youths currently smoke, and 9,500 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care costs Arizona and its taxpayers $1 billion a year. If it maintains its commitment to tobacco prevention, Arizona will reduce this terrible toll.