The fight to stop the tobacco industry’s dangerous hold on our country’s health is ever-changing and demands strong, comprehensive public policy change.
Pennsylvania's Tobacco Tax Increase Takes Effect; Will Reduce Suffering and Death from Cancer
Today calls for a celebration among public health advocates in Pennsylvania, because the state's $1.00 per pack increase to the cigarette tax is now in effect. The tax hike was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on July 13, and brings Pennsylvania's cigarette tax to $2.60 per pack making it the 10th highest tobacco tax in the United States. Pennsylvania now joins Nevada (which passed a $1.00 per pack tax increase in 2015) as the only two states to increase their cigarette taxes by at least $1.00 per pack since 2013. Additionally, this legislation added a tax on e-cigarettes at 40 percent of wholesale price.
At the same time, Pennsylvania passed its first ever tax on smokeless and roll-your-own tobacco. Until now, it was the only state that did not tax these products. Unfortunately, the tax on these other tobacco products was introduced as a weight-based tax. This creates a price discrepancy that will make some tobacco products comparatively cheaper than others, and more appealing to price-sensitive consumers, including youth.
Research shows that regular and significant tobacco tax increases are one of the most effective ways to protect kids from becoming addicted and help current tobacco users quit. One thing we have learned from other states is that smaller increases can be discounted. As an example, last year the Louisiana legislature increased that state's cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack and tobacco companies quickly began offering 50-cent coupons.
Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death and disease nationwide, and is expected to kill more than 480,000 Americans this year alone. With one-third of all cancer deaths attributed to tobacco use, reducing consumption is critical in the fight against cancer.
ACS CAN and Tobacco-Free Kids estimate that the $1.00 increase will save 32,200 lives in Pennsylvania and keep more than 48,100 kids from becoming addicted adult smokers. The tax increase is also expected to help more than 65,600 adult smokers in Pennsylvania quit. While I join Pennsylvania in celebrating its legislative victory, there is still more work to be done to save lives and reduce the burden of tobacco across the country. ACS CAN urges policymakers to follow Pennsylvania and Nevada's lead by significantly raising the price of tobacco in order to reduce tobacco use, preferably while increasing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs to further maximize the public health impact. It's the right thing to do for the health of your state.