Jul. 1 2008
Washington, D.C. — Massachusetts' leaders have taken historic action to protect the state's kids and taxpayers from the devastating toll of tobacco use by increasing the state cigarette tax by $1 to $2.51 per pack. This brings Massachusetts to the third highest state cigarette tax in the nation. By supporting a high cigarette tax, Massachusetts legislators have taken commendable action that will improve the health of Massachusetts residents for generations to come and continue the state's national leadership in the fight against tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the bill into law.
The $1 cigarette tax increase is a win-win-win solution for Massachusetts—a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will raise revenue to help alleviate budget shortfalls, and a political win that polls show 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. Massachusetts can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to prevent more than 46,000 Massachusetts kids alive today from smoking; spur 25,800 Massachusetts smokers to quit for good; save more than 21,500 Massachusetts residents from smoking-caused deaths; produce more than $1 billion in long-term health care savings; and raise about $150 million a year in new state revenue.
Massachusetts' leaders have proven that they know what it takes to win the fight against tobacco use. The next step is for Massachusetts to increase funding for its tobacco prevention and cessation programs to levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so it can have the greatest impact in preventing and reducing tobacco use. Despite being one of the nation's oldest and most successful tobacco prevention programs, funding for the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program (MTCP) has been cut dramatically. Once funded at $48 million per year, the state currently allocates just $12.8 million a year for tobacco prevention. That is less than 2 percent of the $711 million Massachusetts receives annually from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Massachusetts, claiming more than 9,000 lives each year and costing the state $3.5 billion annually in health care bills, including more than $85 million in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $740 each year on every Massachusetts household. While Massachusetts has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 17.7 percent of Massachusetts high school students smoke, and 8,300 more kids become regular smokers every year.
With Massachusetts' tax increase, the average state cigarette tax is now $1.18 per pack. Since January 1, 2002, 44 states plus the District of Columbia have increased cigarette taxes, some more than once. Massachusetts is one of 13 states with cigarette taxes of $2 or more. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have taxes of $1 or more.