ATLANTA, GA – June 9, 2020 – As lawmakers look to address both the budget deficit from earlier in the legislative session and the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to significantly increase Georgia’s low tobacco taxes and the crucial part it can play in the state’s recovery plan has never been clearer.
“Our state’s cigarette tax is currently the third lowest in the nation at a mere $0.37 per pack,” noted Lee Turner, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Georgia State Lead Ambassador. “Increasing our state’s alarmingly low cigarette tax to $1.87 per pack paired with a parallel tax increase on all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, would place us at a significant advantage economically and benefit the health of thousands of Georgians long after the pandemic passes.”
Currently, over 90% of proposed budget cuts directly impact state departments with education and epidemiology making up the most significant cuts. The over $425 million in new annual revenue from increasing the cigarette tax to $1.87 per pack would help ensure a strong foundation for some of Georgia’s most crucial services, heavily aid the state’s economic recovery and prioritize the welfare of Georgia families.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to place a heightened awareness on the need for strong public health infrastructure," added Turner, a resident of Tifton who met with lawmakers during budget week this past March to advocate for increased tobacco taxes.“Every day, Georgians are being reminded of the important role public health plays in their ability to live a full and healthy life -- free from the ills of tobacco use. Georgia lawmakers should increase the state cigarette tax to $1.87 per pack, along with a parallel increase in the tax on all other tobacco products to prevent kids from starting to use tobacco and help adults already addicted to quit. Doing so, would prevent an estimated 30,200 of youth from becoming adult smokers.”
According to a recent poll by the American Heart Association, nearly 75% of Georgia voters support increasing the state tax on tobacco products to help make up for the budget shortfall. With Georgia continually falling short on comprehensive tobacco control measures, the need for protective public health policy and its immense benefits further reaffirm the urgency for increasing the state’s low tobacco taxes.
Research shows that enacting a large tobacco tax increase is one of the most effective methods to help adults quit and reduce youth initiation of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. For some individuals who use tobacco products, the COVID-19 pandemic has been motivation to quit. For others, trying to quit during a time of stress might prove even harder.
“Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia, cigarette tax collections have been up 37%,” noted Turner. “Increasing the cigarette tax to $1.87 per pack would help 59,700 people who smoke quit. There’s no time to waste. We should be doing everything we can to help those who choose to quit to succeed and put the health of Georgian’s first.”
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.