Govenor Perdue's Proposal to Raise… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Govenor Perdue's Proposal to Raise Georgia'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
January 16, 2003

Washington, D.C. — New Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has taken a dramatic step to improve public health in Georgia with his proposal to increase the state cigarette tax by 46 cents per pack and impose a tax on other tobacco products. We applaud Governor Perdue for taking this important step in his first week in office to protect Georgia's kids and public health, and we strongly urge the state legislature to pass a tax of at least this amount. Indeed, a poll conducted in April demonstrated that over 70 percent of Georgia voters favor as much as a 75-cent increase in the state's tobacco tax. This support comes from a diverse array of Georgia voters, including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Increasing tobacco taxes is a WIN WIN WIN solution for Georgia that will raise much-needed revenue to help balance the budget, reduce smoking among both kids and adults, and be politically popular with voters.

The evidence is clear that raising the price of tobacco products is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among children and pregnant women, thus reducing the devastating toll of tobacco on health and health care. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids estimates that Governor Perdue's proposal would stop 53,000 Georgia kids alive today from become smokers and encourage 35,000 current smokers to quit, saving more than 20,000 Georgians a premature death from tobacco-related illness. The long-term health care savings from these reductions in smoking would total more than $900 million.

In addition to these savings in lives and health care dollars, the tobacco tax increase will also produce much-needed revenue to help address Georgia's budget problems. A 46-cent increase in the cigarette tax will produce almost $300 million in new revenue for the state despite the reductions in use that will inevitably occur. Additional revenue will accrue from the tax on other tobacco products.

In addition to passing the tobacco tax, it is critical that Governor Perdue and the legislature use a portion of the state's tobacco settlement and tobacco tax dollars to continue and expand the state's tobacco prevention and cessation program. Just four cents of a tobacco tax would allow Georgia to increase its spending to the minimum level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Research shows that combining these program efforts with policies such as excise tax increases and smoke-free environments will achieve the most dramatic reductions in smoking and other tobacco use. Even in these tough budget times, investing in tobacco prevention and cessation is a wise investment.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Georgia, taking the lives of over 10,000 Georgians every year. More than 20,000 Georgia kids become regular daily smokers each year, and one-third of them will die a premature death from tobacco use. The state's annual tobacco-caused healthcare costs are $1.75 billion. These costs dwarf Georgia's current cigarette tax, which at a mere twelve cents per pack is the fifth lowest in the country and has not been increased since 1971. The average state tobacco tax is 62 cents.