California Tobacco Tax Initiative… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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California Tobacco Tax Initiative Would Benefit Kids and Taxpayers

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
December 13, 2005

Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids joins a coalition of public health and children’s advocacy groups that announced support today for a November 2006 ballot initiative that would raise California’s tobacco tax by $2.60 per pack. The tobacco tax initiative is a win-win-win solution for California that will reduce tobacco use, save lives, and raise much-needed revenue to fund vital tobacco prevention and cessation, children’s health and other healthcare programs. This initiative would allow California to once again become a national leader in the fight against tobacco by increasing funding for the state’s pioneering tobacco prevention and cessation program to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

California can expect a $2.60 cent per pack cigarette tax increase to prevent hundreds of thousands of kids alive today from becoming smokers and save hundreds of thousands of Californians from smoking-caused deaths, while raising roughly $2.27 billion a year in new revenue.

Approval of this initiative is critical because California’s cigarette tax of 87 cents per pack is below the national average. California has fallen behind because 41 states have increased tobacco taxes since 2002, raising billions in new state revenue while helping to significantly reduce smoking and save lives. California last increased its cigarette tax in 1999. Currently, five states- Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington- and New York City have cigarette taxes of $2.00 or more per pack.

We join California’s leading public health groups in supporting this initiative because the evidence is clear that increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among children and pregnant women. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by three to five percent. Preliminary evidence confirms that every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax in recent years has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, even while reducing cigarette sales.

Beyond funding the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation program, the tobacco tax revenue would fund emergency room care, children’s healthcare insurance, disease and cancer research, nursing education and anti-smuggling/ law enforcement programs. Other sponsors of this initiative include: the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association of California, American Heart Association, The Children’s Partnership, the California Hospital Association, the American Chapter, College of Emergency Physicians and the California Emergency Nurses Association.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in California, claiming more than 37,800 lives each year and costing the state $8.4 billion annually in health care bills, including $2.7 billion in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $593 each year on every California household. In addition, 13.2 percent of California high school students currently smoke, and 47,900 more kids become regular smokers every year.