Maine Remains National Leader in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director

Jun. 25 2005

Washington, DC — We applaud Governor Baldacci and the Maine Legislature for ensuring that Maine remains a national leader in protecting kids from tobacco by doubling the state cigarette tax to $2 per pack and maintaining full funding for the state’s highly successful tobacco prevention program. Maine continues to be the model for all states by adopting all three of the best proven policies to reduce smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke: a high cigarette tax, a well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation program, and a comprehensive smoke-free law that covers all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. This comprehensive and aggressive approach will improve the health of Maine’s citizens for generations to come and ensure that the state continues to reduce smoking, save lives and save money by reducing smoking-caused health care costs.

We also commend the Maine Coalition on Smoking or Health for working tirelessly to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences. By successfully advocating for a cigarette tax increase, they have provided Maine with a win-win-win solution. Raising the cigarette tax is a public health win that will reduce smoking and save lives, a fiscal win that will raise much-needed revenue and reduce smoking-caused health care costs, and a political win because cigarette taxes have the strong support of the public. Maine can expect the $1 per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 13,800 Maine kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 6,600 Maine residents from smoking-caused deaths, produce more than $292 million in long-term health care savings, and raise more than $60 million in new revenue each year.

Maine will further reduce tobacco use and its many harms because it is one of only three states that currently fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention program at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, Maine has ranked first in the nation in funding tobacco prevention for three years in a row. As a result, Maine has already seen dramatic declines in youth smoking. Between 1997, when it launched its tobacco prevention program, and 2003, Maine reduced smoking by 59 percent among middle school students and 48 percent among high school students. To continue reducing youth smoking, it is critical that Maine continue to fully fund its tobacco prevention program and resist any pressure to cut back, especially now that the state will be collecting record amounts of tobacco-generated revenue from the cigarette tax and the state tobacco settlement.

Investing in proven tobacco prevention measures is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that Maine and other states can make. Tobacco prevention programs, smoke-free workplace laws and tobacco tax increases not only reduce smoking and save lives; they are also part of the solution to the skyrocketing health care costs, especially under Medicaid, that are placing such a burden on state budgets. Tobacco costs Maine $554 million a year in health care bills, including $199 million under Medicaid. The average Maine household pays $618 a year in taxes because of smoking-caused government expenditures. Businesses pay even more because of higher health insurance costs and lost productivity. We commend Maine for the great progress the state has made in reducing tobacco’s terrible toll and encourage Maine’s leaders to remain committed to reducing tobacco use for generations to come.

 

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