Raising California's cigarette tax by $1 per pack would bring in $575.2 million in new annual revenue to help close the state's budget shortfall, while also reducing smoking and saving lives, according to a national report released Wednesday by a coalition of public health organizations.The report comes as states grapple with unprecedented budget shortfalls and face devastating cuts to education, health care and other essential public services. The report details the revenue and health benefits to each state of a $1 cigarette tax increase. In California, a $1 cigarette tax increase would also: Prevent 228,700 kids from becoming smokers; Spur 118,300 current adult smokers to quit; Save 104,500 residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and Save $5.1 billion in health care costs. A nationwide poll released along with the report found that 67 percent of voters support a $1 tobacco tax increase, with backing from large majorities of Republicans (68 percent), Democrats (70 percent) and Independents (64 percent). The poll found that voters far prefer raising the state tobacco tax to other options for addressing state budget deficits. While 60 percent favored increasing the tobacco tax for this purpose, more than 70 percent opposed every other option presented, including higher state income, gasoline and sales taxes and cuts to education, health care, transportation and law enforcement programs. "This report shows that raising tobacco taxes is truly a win-win-win for California. It is a budget win that will help protect vital programs like health care and education, a health win that will prevent kids from smoking and save lives, and a political win with the voters," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The report was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It is titled Tobacco Taxes: A Win-Win-Win for Cash-Strapped States. Currently, California's cigarette tax is 87 cents per pack, which ranks 32nd in the nation. The national average is $1.34 per pack. The scientific evidence is clear that increasing cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. States will achieve even greater revenue and health gains if they also increase tax rates on other tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco and cigars, and if they dedicate a portion of their new tobacco tax revenue to fund programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. In California, tobacco use claims 36,600 lives and costs the state $9.14 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 15.4 percent of the state's high school students smoke, and 130,200 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year. The national survey of 847 registered voters was conducted from January 20-24, 2010, by International Communications Research and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. More information, including the full report, state-specific information and detailed poll results, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org/winwinwin.
********** Published: February 12, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 43