Apr. 7 2008
Washington, D.C. — As Massachusetts' leaders work to resolve a projected budget deficit, a report released today finds that a proposed $1 cigarette tax increase would raise more than $150 million in new revenue and also drastically reduce youth smoking, cause many smokers to quit, reduce tobacco-related health care costs and save thousands of lives.
The 30-page report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids - titled "Tobacco Tax Benefits for Massachusetts: Reducing Smoking, Saving Lives, and Saving Money" - finds that a $1 cigarette tax increase would:
In addition, a $1 cigarette tax increase enjoys strong voter support. A statewide poll of Massachusetts voters released in January found that 63 percent support a $1 increase in the cigarette tax, with support from a majority of Democrats, Independents, Republicans, men, women, nonsmokers and former smokers. Voter support increases to 74 percent when a portion of the new revenue is allocated to tobacco prevention and health care programs.
State Representative Rachel Kaprielian has introduced legislation to increase the state cigarette tax by $1 per pack with some of the revenue earmarked for health care reform and tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
"This report provides powerful evidence that increasing the cigarette tax by $1 will improve both the physical and financial health of Massachusetts for generations to come," said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We strongly urge Massachusetts' leaders to pass this life-saving measure and dedicate a portion of the new revenue to the state's tobacco prevention efforts and other vital health care initiatives."
Massachusetts' current cigarette tax is $1.51, with the last increase approved in 2002. Since then, 42 other states and the District of Columbia have increased their cigarette excise taxes more than 70 times. Nine states currently have a cigarette tax of $2 or more, and New York is expected to approve an increase of $1.25 per pack to give it the highest state cigarette tax at $2.75 per pack.
The evidence is clear that increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among children. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. In recent years, every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax has enjoyed significant increases in revenue even while reducing smoking.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Massachusetts, and the United States as a whole. In Massachusetts, tobacco use claims more than 9,000 lives each year and costs the state more than $3.5 billion annually in health care bills, including $1 billion in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $742 each year on every Massachusetts household. While Massachusetts has made progress in the past in reducing youth smoking, almost 18 percent of Massachusetts high school students are still current smokers, and 8,300 more kids become regular smokers every year.