Big Tobacco Puts Profits Before Kids in Defeating Ballot Initiatives to Raise Cigarette Taxes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 07, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Big tobacco companies Altria/Philip Morris and Reynolds American have again protected their profits at the expense of kids and lives by spending nearly $24 million to defeat ballot initiatives to raise cigarette taxes in Montana and South Dakota. That’s an obscene amount in two states with a combined population of less than two million people.

Altria and Reynolds like to claim that they’re changed, responsible companies. But their actions show they haven’t changed and will go to any lengths, say anything and spend any amount to keep America’s kids smoking. The huge sums spent against these initiatives represent an investment to preserve the pipeline of children the tobacco industry needs as replacement smokers for the 480,000 Americans that cigarettes kill each year.

In better news, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to add electronic cigarettes to the state’s smoke-free law, prohibiting e-cigarette use in the same public places and workplaces where cigarettes are currently prohibited.

Altria and Reynolds went all-out to defeat the Montana and South Dakota initiatives because they know that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. They also know that the public strongly supports higher cigarette taxes, so they hid the real reason for their opposition behind deceptive ads and front groups they created with names like “Montanans Against Tax Hikes” and “South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes.”

Altria and Reynolds poured $17.5 million into defeating the Montana initiative to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, which fell short by roughly 54-46 percent. They spent over $6.4 million against the South Dakota initiative to raise the cigarette tax by $1 per pack.

These votes do not change the facts: Raising the tobacco tax is highly effective at reducing smoking, and the public strongly supports doing so, as national and state polls have repeatedly shown. Elected officials must side with kids over the tobacco industry and support higher tobacco taxes and other proven measures to reduce tobacco use.