Mar. 23 2003
Washington, D.C. — New Mexico's leaders have taken a giant step in protecting the state's kids from tobacco by increasing the state cigarette tax by 70 cents a pack, maintaining funding for the state's tobacco prevention program at $5 million, and not raiding proceeds currently in the Tobacco Settlement Fund that will be needed to fund tobacco prevention and other vital health care programs in the future. Gov. Bill Richardson and the Legislature have shown vision and leadership in enacting these proposals and have set an example for states of how to balance the budget while maintaining a strong commitment to tobacco prevention. As a result, New Mexico can look forward to reducing smoking among both kids and adults, saving lives and saving millions of taxpayer dollars by reducing smoking-caused health care costs.
Higher cigarette taxes have been proven to reduce smoking – especially among kids. New Mexico can expect a 70 cents per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 20,000 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 9,000 New Mexicans from smoking-caused deaths, produce $340 million in long-term health care savings and raise roughly $53 million a year in new revenue. New Mexicans strongly support a cigarette tax increase. An August poll found that 63 percent supported a 60 cents per pack increase. This support comes from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
New Mexico's leaders rightly recognized that even in these difficult budget times tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments the state can make. If New Mexico properly funds and implements a comprehensive tobacco prevention based on the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can look forward not only to reducing smoking and saving lives, but also to saving far more than it spends by reducing smoking-caused health care costs. These costs total $360 million a year in New Mexico. States have saved up to $3 in health costs for every dollar spent on prevention. In addition, states that have implemented comprehensive tobacco prevention programs have reduced youth smoking by anywhere from 36 percent to 47 percent, depending on the age group, in just a few short years.
With the cigarette tax increase, New Mexico will collect $116.7 million a year in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It's only right that New Mexico spend some of this money on tobacco prevention and work to increase spending to the minimum amount of $13.7 million recommended by the CDC.
Tobacco's toll in New Mexico is devastating – 36.2 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 5,200 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. If it maintains its commitment to tobacco prevention, New Mexico can look forward to reducing this tragic toll.