73% of Georgia Voters Favor $1 Tobacco Tax Increase to Help Cut State's Budget Deficit

Tobacco tax would bring in $354 million in new revenue, reduce youth smoking

Mar. 7 2010

ATLANTA — As the Legislature prepares to reconvene next week, a new poll released today shows that 73 percent of Georgia voters support raising the tobacco tax by $1 per pack to cut the state’s budget deficit and help preserve Medicaid funding in the state.

This support comes from a broad-based coalition of voters, including 72 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Democrats, and 65 percent of Independents. Even half of smokers (50 percent) support the tobacco tax increase to preserve health care funding.

"Now is the time for legislators to listen to the 73 percent of Georgia voters who want to raise the tobacco tax instead of cutting critical programs. These results show that, regardless of party, voters across Georgia understand raising the tobacco tax is a smart way to cut the deficit and protect our kids from tobacco," said Danny McGoldrick, Vice President for Research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The survey of 500 registered Georgia voters was released by a coalition of groups including the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Increasing the tobacco tax also is by far the most palatable approach to addressing Georgia’s budget woes. While 71 percent of voters supported increasing the tobacco tax for this purpose, more than two-thirds opposed every other option presented, including increasing state income and sales taxes, implementing a grocery tax and a hospital bed tax, and reducing funding for education and health care programs.

"Georgia faces many tough decisions this year, but raising the tobacco tax is the only one that will protect our kids and also lower healthcare costs for years to come," said John Daniel, Vice President Federal Issues, Georgia and Emerging Issues for the American Cancer Society.

The survey also found among Georgia voters:

  • 60 percent are more likely to support candidates who favor the proposal, while just 19 percent are less likely to do so.
  • 77 percent favor taxing other tobacco products such as cigars and smokeless tobacco at a rate comparable to cigarettes.

A recent report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations found that a $1 increase in Georgia’s tobacco tax would raise $354.5 million in new annual revenue. Such an increase would also prevent 79,600 Georgia kids from smoking, save 38,400 state residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths and save $1.8 billion in tobacco-related health care costs.

Georgia's current cigarette tax is 37 cents per pack, which ranks 47th in the nation and is well below the national average of $1.34 per pack.

The survey was conducted by the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. The statewide poll has a random sample of 500 likely Georgia voters and was conducted February 23 to February 25, 2010. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.38 percentage points.

 

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