Why We Need To Raise the Cigarette Tax

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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What if you could do something that would improve health, reduce addictions, and raise money for the state, all at the same time? Sound good? Then we agree: it’s time to raise the cigarette tax. Some facts to consider:

  • Kentucky leads the nation in adults who smoke. (CDC) (United Health Foundation)
  • Kentucky leads the nation in rates of lung cancer. (CDC)
  • Kentucky leads the nation in deaths from lung cancer. (CDC) (United Health Foundation)
  • 15% of Kentucky teens smoke at least once a month, with 7% reporting that they smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day when they smoke. (KY Dept of Ed)
  • Kentucky’s cigarette tax is $0.60 per pack, which is the 8th lowest in the nation. The national average is $1.72. (Tobacco-Free Kids)

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In response to this ongoing public health crisis, a coalition of Kentucky health, business, and policy organizations is calling for the legislature to raise the cigarette tax by at least $1 per pack. And they’ve produced an excellent infographic to explain the need and the benefits. The Coalition for a Smokefree Tomorrow is a “diverse group of stakeholders who have formed a statewide coalition dedicated to reducing tobacco use and protecting Kentuckians from the dangers of secondhand smoke.” The steering committee includes

  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
  • American Heart Association
  • American Stroke Association
  • American Lung Association
  • Baptist Health
  • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
  • Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy
  • Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • Kentucky Council of Churches
  • Kentucky Voices for Health
  • Kentucky Youth Advocates

Why a dollar? As noted in a story at Kentucky Health News,

“Research shows that a tobacco tax increase in Kentucky must be at least $1 to achieve any health benefits,” the coalition said in a news release. “Tobacco companies use coupons and other point-of-sale promotions to soften the impact of tax increases on the price of their products, so the tax increase has to be large enough to overcome those promotions.”

“The current tax doesn’t begin to cover the high cost of smoking in Kentucky,” said KVH Executive Director Emily Beauregard. An extra dollar per pack will put a dent in those costs. More to the point of the coalition’s work, it also will save lives and improve health.”

And, adds Ben Chandler, chair of the coalition,

“Nearly 9,000 deaths every year in Kentucky are directly related to smoking, more than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. If we don’t start reducing smoking rates in Kentucky right now, 119,000 of today’s youth will die early due to tobacco use.”

It would seem, based on the need and the benefits, that raising the tax by at least $1 a pack is a no-brainer for the leges – but it’s been proposed before, and failed to pass. [mepr-show if=”loggedout”] [/mepr-show]

So this year, when you contact your lege about passing this no-brainer legislation, use the facts and talking points from the excellent two-part infograph below. It’s time to lower our lung cancer rates and improve our health. It’s time to make cigarettes even more expensive, so teenages will spend their money elsewhere. It’s time to fight back on smoking in our state. Let’s do this, Kentucky.

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Infographic Produced by Kentucky Voices for Health

Shared via Kentucky Health News, which is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

If you’re on Twitter, the images are tweetable. Use the
“Tweet This” buttons under each part of the infographic. Share widely!

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