House Committee Focuses on Public Health with Increased Tobacco Tax, Greater Access to Affordable Health Care
The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote today on legislation that if enacted would greatly improve public health.
RICHMOND, VA – Cancer patients and survivors are marking the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) 45th annual Great American Smokeout today by calling on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and state lawmakers to protect the health of state residents by increasing the tax on all tobacco products and ensuring the additional revenue is invested in the state’s public health program. As our battle with COVID-19 continues, we must do everything in our power to keep our communities healthy and safe—which means building strong public health infrastructure including comprehensive tobacco control measures.
As the advocacy affiliate of ACS, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), supports evidence-based strategies proven to reduce tobacco use including comprehensive smoke-free laws, regular and significant tobacco excise tax increases, and adequately funding evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
This effort to combat tobacco addiction comes at a critical moment, as Big Tobacco has now succeeded in hooking a new generation on tobacco products. E-cigarette use has reached significant levels among youth, with approximately one in five high school students (19.6%) currently using e-cigarettes.
ACS CAN is working with public health organizations and medical professionals to increase the tax in order to reduce the state’s adult smoking rate of 14%.
“The Great American Smokeout is about helping people quit, and we know that significantly increasing Virginia’s tobacco tax is one of the best ways to encourage quitting,” said ACS CAN Virginia Government Relations Director Brian Donohue. “$1.50 per pack tax increase with an increase in the tax on other tobacco products to parallel the new rate will help keep kids from starting to use tobacco and helps adults quit. We encourage lawmakers to use funds from the tobacco taxes to fund and sustain evidence-based, statewide tobacco use prevention and cessation programs. In addition to increasing the state’s revenue, we know that regular and significant increases in tobacco taxes mean lower health care costs fewer youth who ever become addicted to these deadly products.
“Health benefits begin occurring quickly after quitting smoking, including rapid improvements in blood carbon monoxide levels and in respiratory tract function, as well as slower improvements over time in immune function,” said Donohue.
Reducing Big Tobacco’s grip on Virginia is not only crucial to reducing death from tobacco-related disease, but it’s also imperative to reduce health disparities in the state. The tobacco industry’s marketing strategies have led to significant disparities in tobacco: Tobacco use is becoming more concentrated among people with low income and poor mental health.
“While we’ve made progress in tobacco control, we have to remember that we have a long way to go when it comes to combatting Big Tobacco’s influence and protecting our communities from tobacco’s toll,” said Donohue. “In Virginia, smoking causes nearly 10,300 deaths a year. We must to more to reduce tobacco use and save lives by increasing the tax on all tobacco products.”
The use of tobacco products remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing more than 480,000 Americans, and costing $170 billion in health care costs and $151 billion in lost productivity annually.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.