Connecticut's Cigarette Tax Increase… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Connecticut's Cigarette Tax Increase is a Positive Step, but State also Needs to Fund a Comprehensive Tobacco Prevention Program

Statement by William V. Corr, Executive Vice President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 28, 2002

Washington, DC — The Connecticut Legislature has taken an important step toward protecting the state's kids from the deadly lure of tobacco by voting to increase the state cigarette tax by 61 cents. However, the Legislature missed a tremendous opportunity to do even more to protect Connecticut's kids by failing to approve an amendment to increase the tax by an additional four cents and using the extra revenue to fund a tobacco prevention program.

The 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 a first step if Connecticut is to succeed in reducing smoking and the devastation it causes. However, 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. The amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen to increase the cigarette tax by four more cents and use the money for tobacco prevention would have been an important step in this direction. Governor Rowland and 17 state senators let down Connecticut's kids by opposing this proposal to fund tobacco prevention. We urge Connecticut's leaders to make the funding of tobacco prevention a priority as they continue work on the state's budget.

Increasing the cigarette tax is not a substitute for 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 less than three percent 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 and California are saving up to $3 for every dollar spent on tobacco 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. Lawmakers must stop shortchanging Connecticut's kids and taxpayers and fund a comprehensive, statewide tobacco prevention program.