Governor Johanns' Proposal to… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Governor Johanns' Proposal to Increase Nebraska's Cigarette Tax Will Save Lives, Reduce Health Care Costs and Raise Much-Needed Revenue

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

Washington, DC — We applaud Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns for his leadership in proposing to increase the state cigarette tax by 50 cents to 84 cents a pack. The Governor's plan is a win-win-win solution for Nebraska: it will reduce smoking, especially among kids; it will reduce smoking-caused health costs and raise much-needed revenue, part of which should be used to boost tobacco prevention efforts; and it has strong public support as demonstrated by a recent poll. In sum, Governor Johanns' proposal is good public health policy, good fiscal policy and good politics. It should be quickly approved by the Legislature.

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, Nebraska can expect a 50-cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 8,900 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 4,400 Nebraskans from smoking-caused deaths, produce nearly $170 million in long-term health care savings, and raise more than $60 million a year in new revenue.

Nebraskans strongly support a cigarette tax increase. A January poll released by public health groups found that more than two-thirds of Nebraska voters (68 percent) support a 50-cent per pack increase, with part of the revenue dedicated to tobacco prevention, particularly among kids, and another part of the revenue used to address the state's budget shortfall. This support comes from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

Tobacco's toll in Nebraska is devastating – 29 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 4,500 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care expenses costs Nebraska $396 million a year.

Nebraska has made a start toward addressing this epidemic by allocating $7 million a year of its tobacco settlement money for tobacco prevention, but this is barely half the $13.3 million minimum recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We are encouraged that Governor Johanns has expressed support for using some of the new cigarette tax revenue for tobacco prevention. If Nebraska both increases its cigarette tax and properly funds a sustained, comprehensive tobacco prevention program, it will become a national leader in protecting its kids and citizens from the terrible toll of tobacco.