May. 14 2008
Washington, D.C. — The District of Columbia Council has taken a critical step to protect kids and taxpayers from the devastating toll of tobacco use by doubling the District's cigarette tax to $2 per pack. We applaud the Council for approving this life-saving measure and urge members to also increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The $1 cigarette tax increase is a win-win-win solution for the District of Columbia—a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will raise much-needed revenue and reduce tobacco-caused health care costs, and a political win that is popular with the voters.
The evidence is clear that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. The District can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to prevent some 4,100 DC kids alive today from smoking; spur 3,100 DC smokers to quit for good: save 2,100 DC residents from smoking-caused deaths; produce more than $100 million in long-term health care savings; and raise about $11.7 million a year in new revenue.
DC leaders have proven once again that they know what it takes to win the fight against tobacco use—with the implementation last year of a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law and this week's doubling of the cigarette tax. The next step is for DC to increase funding for programs to prevent kids from starting to smoke and help smokers quit. The CDC recommends that DC spend $10.5 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, but DC currently spends just $3.6 million. The District should increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs to build on its progress in combating the deadly toll of tobacco in the nation's capital.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the District of Columbia, claiming more than 700 lives each year and costing the state $243 million annually in health care bills, including $78 million in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $605 each year on every DC household. Currently, 9.2 percent of DC high school students smoke, and 500 more kids become regular smokers every year.
With the DC increase, the average state cigarette tax will be $1.16 per pack. Since January 1, 2002, 43 states and the District of Columbia have increased cigarette taxes, some more than once. Ten states and DC now have cigarette taxes of $2 or more.