Sep. 2 2009
Washington, D.C. — Connecticut's leaders have taken decisive 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 $3.00 per pack, making it the second highest state cigarette tax in the nation (Rhode Island's tax is $3.46 per pack). Connecticut is also increasing its tax rates on most other tobacco products, but they still remain shamefully low compared to the state's exemplary new tax rate on cigarettes. Increased tobacco taxes are a win-win-win solution for Connecticut and every other state — 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 more than six percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. Connecticut can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to prevent 24,000 Connecticut kids from becoming addicted adult smokers; spur 10,000 current adult Connecticut smokers to quit for good; save more than 10,500 Connecticut residents from future smoking-caused deaths; lock in more than $520 million future health care savings; and raise about $60 million a year in new state revenue.
By failing to raise taxes on other tobacco products to match its new cigarette tax, Connecticut's legislators have chosen not to take advantage of a golden opportunity to raise a lot more money; money that could be used to increase funding for the state's tobacco prevention program and to help provide cessation assistance through the state's Medicaid program. Connecticut continues to be one of the last states to not provide any cessation coverage for its Medicaid recipients, and is still near the bottom of all the states with regard to tobacco prevention funding.
Governor Jodi Rell proposed the increase in the cigarette tax this session. The state Legislature approved the tobacco tax increase this week and Governor Rell is allowing the budget to become law without her signature. By supporting a higher cigarette tax, Connecticut's leaders have taken action that will improve the health of Connecticut residents for generations to come and continue the state's leadership in the fight against tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States. The tobacco tax increases take effect on October 1.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Connecticut, claiming 4,700 lives each year and costing the state $1.63 billion annually in health care bills, including $430 million in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $680 each year on every Connecticut household. While Connecticut has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 21.1 percent of Connecticut high school students smoke, and 4,600 more kids become regular smokers every year.
With Connecticut's tax increase, the average state cigarette tax is now $1.34 per pack. Connecticut is the second state with a cigarette tax of $3 or more, Rhode Island being the first. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia will now have cigarette tax rates of $2 per pack or more, and 26 states and DC have cigarette tax rates of $1 per pack or more. South Carolina remains the lowest-tax state with a cigarette tax of only seven cents per pack. Only four states have failed to raise their cigarette tax since 2000: California (1999), Missouri (1993), North Dakota (1993) and South Carolina (1977).