Nebraska's Higher Cigarette Tax Will… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Nebraska's Higher 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
April 11, 2002

Washington, DC — Nebraska's leaders have taken an important step toward protecting the state's kids and taxpayers from the devastating toll of tobacco by increasing the cigarette tax by 30 cents a pack for the next two years. This is a win-win-win solution for Nebraska that will reduce smoking among both kids and adults, save lives by reducing smoking-caused disease and raise much-needed revenue to help balance the state budget. We applaud Governor Mike Johanns for proposing and supporting a cigarette tax increase and the Legislature for enacting the 30-cent increase into law today. However, if Nebraska is to truly succeed in reducing smoking and the harm that it causes, the state's leaders should permanently extend the cigarette tax increase and adequately fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention program using some of its tobacco settlement proceeds or cigarette tax revenue.

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. While increasing revenues, Nebraska can expect a 30-cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent some 5,300 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 2,500 Nebraskans from smoking-caused deaths, produce $101 million in long-term health care savings, and raise roughly $35 million a year in new revenue. Of course, many of these benefits will not be realized if the Legislature fails to make this tax permanent in two years.

Nebraskans strongly supported a cigarette tax increase. A January poll released by public health groups found that more than two-thirds of Nebraska voters (68 percent) supported a 50-cent per pack increase. This support comes from Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Voters also wanted some of the cigarette tax revenue to be used to fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that would further reduce tobacco's financial and health costs in the state.

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 $419 million a year. If Nebraska makes the cigarette tax increase permanent and adequately funds a comprehensive tobacco prevention program, it can look forward to reducing this terrible toll.

Nebraska joins a growing number of states that have increased their cigarette taxes in recent months, including Maryland, Connecticut, Utah, New York and Washington State. These measures have been approved by governors and legislatures of both political parties, as well as by voters in Washington, underscoring the broad political support for cigarette tax increases. The many states still considering cigarette tax increases should join Nebraska and other states in doing the right thing and enjoying the many health and economic benefits that will result.