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Connecticut Proposal to Increase Cigarette Tax Should be Quickly Enacted,But State also Needs to Fund a Comprehensive Tobacco Prevention Program

Statement by Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 25, 2002

Washington, DC — We strongly endorse the proposals by Governor John Rowland and legislative leaders to increase Connecticut's cigarette tax as one of the most important public health measures proposed in Connecticut in years, and we urge the state's leaders to enact an increase of at least 61 cents a pack, as proposed by the governor, as quickly as possible. The proposed cigarette tax increase is a win-win solution for Connecticut that will reduce smoking and the death, disease and millions in health care costs that result, while raising much-needed revenue. Increasing the cigarette tax is the first step if Connecticut is to succeed in reducing smoking and the devastation it causes. However, if it is to achieve a sustained, long-term reduction in smoking, Connecticut must also use some of its tobacco settlement proceeds or cigarette tax revenue to fund a comprehensive, statewide tobacco prevention program at the minimum level of $21.2 million a year recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We call on Governor Rowland to reverse his opposition to funding such a program and join legislative leaders in supporting the use of tobacco money to solve the tobacco problem.

Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes will reduce youth smoking by seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by three to five percent. In recent years, many states have raised cigarette tax rates, and in every case, they have reduced cigarette consumption while increasing revenues. Based on these studies and state experiences, Connecticut can expect a 61-cent per pack increase to prevent some 18,500 kids alive today from becoming smokers, prevent 9,600 smoking-caused deaths, produce $360 million in long-term health care savings, and raise $125 million each year in new revenue.

Increasing the cigarette tax is not a substitute for implementing a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that can produce even greater reductions in smoking and the disease, death and health costs that result. Unfortunately, Connecticut currently spends only $580,000 a year on tobacco prevention, which is woefully short of the CDC's recommended minimum and by far the worst in New England. We have conclusive evidence that tobacco prevention works. Maine has reduced high school smoking by 36 percent in just three years. Massachusetts has seen similar successes and is saving $2 in smoking-caused health costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention. California is saving more than $3 for every dollar spent on prevention. Connecticut can realize similar benefits if its leaders properly fund and implement a comprehensive tobacco prevention program.

Tobacco's toll in Connecticut is devastating — 25.6 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 7,800 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care expenses costs Connecticut and its taxpayers more than $1 billion a year. Governor Rowland will shortchange Connecticut's kids and taxpayers if he does not support the funding of a comprehensive, statewide tobacco prevention program.