May. 8 2009
Washington, D.C. — The Florida Legislature has taken an important step to protect the state's kids and taxpayers from the devastating toll of tobacco use by increasing the state cigarette tax for the first time since 1990. The $1 cigarette tax increase, to $1.34 per pack, is a win-win-win solution for Florida – a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will raise critical new revenue for health improvements, and a political win that polls show is popular with the voters. The Legislature also voted to increase the tax on most other tobacco products. We applaud the Legislature, especially the senators who initially proposed it, for supporting this life-saving proposal, and we urge Governor Charlie Crist to sign it into law.
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. Florida can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to prevent some 165,800 kids alive today from smoking; spur 100,500 smokers to quit for good; save nearly 79,600 residents from smoking-caused deaths; produce $3.8 billion in long-term health care savings; and raise about $631 million a year in new state revenue.
Counting Florida's increase and recently approved increases in Hawaii and Mississippi, the average state cigarette tax would be $1.27 per pack. Rhode Island has the highest state cigarette tax at $3.46 per pack. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have cigarette tax rates of at least $2 per pack. If the Florida legislation becomes law, 27 states and DC would have cigarette tax rates of at least $1 per pack.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Florida, claiming 28,600 lives each year and costing the state $6.3 billion annually in health care bills, including $1.2 billion in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $585 each year on every Florida household. While Florida has made progress in reducing youth smoking, 14.5 percent of Florida high school students still smoke and 22,700 more kids become regular smokers every year.
We call on states across the nation to follow Florida's lead and significantly increase their own state cigarette taxes to keep more kids from smoking and help current smokers quit.