Gov. Northam’s Tobacco Tax Proposal Undercuts Virginians Health, Says Leading Cancer Advocacy Organization

December 18, 2019
RICHMOND, Va. — Today, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) expressed mixed disappointment and support for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s two-year budget proposal, which included line items for increasing the cigarette tax and reinsurance initiatives.
The following can be attributed to Brian Donohue, Virginia director of government relations for ACS CAN:
“We do want to thank the governor for proposing to expand access to care in our state, to add additional funding for tobacco cessation services through the Quit Now Virginia quitline, and to restore funding to the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth where the tobacco prevention program is housed. That said however, his proposed tobacco tax will not be significant enough to make a difference.
“Bluntly, raising the cigarette tax by a mere $0.30 per pack won’t make an impact on public health—it will fail to keep kids from becoming addicted to cigarettes and it will fail to help adults quit.
“We call on the legislature to adopt a comprehensive approach to tobacco control that includes a significant excise tax increase of $1.50 per pack of cigarettes to effectively reduce the number of people who begin smoking and increase the number of people who quit—particularly among youth. A $1.50 per pack increase in Virginia’s cigarette tax would prevent 28,800 kids from becoming adults who smoke, help 50,800 adults who smoke quit, and save 21,500 lives.
“Evidence-based research also shows that taxing all other tobacco products at rates equivalent to the tax on cigarettes also helps prevent tobacco initiation among youth and promotes tobacco cessation among adults.
“Additionally, national polls consistently show strong public support for increasing tobacco tax increases, and when it comes to balancing budgets, voters prefer raising tobacco taxes to other tax increases or cutting programs such as education or public safety.
“Currently, our state ranks 50th nationwide among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for its cigarette tax rate. We are long overdue for a tobacco tax increase, but it needs to be one that will make a difference and save lives. This proposal will not achieve that. We therefore call on the legislature to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to improve the health of our state.”
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
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