ATLANTA, GA – June 26, 2020 – SB 375, a bill enacting harsh penalties on youth and taxing e-cigarettes too low to reduce youth use, has moved quickly and passed through the Georgia General Assembly.
The below is a statement on behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Senior Government Relations Director Heather Youmans in response.
“We’re extremely disappointed by the passage of SB 375 and its failure to prioritize Georgia residents. The bill entirely misses the mark on protecting Georgians from tobacco’s deadly toll while continuing to line the pockets of Big Tobacco at the expense of our youth.
This year alone, we’ve seen the highest youth tobacco rate in nearly 20 years, a growing budget deficit and a global crisis that has motivated some adults to quit tobacco products. By failing to comprehensively address tobacco use in our state by significantly increasing the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, the legislature missed the opportunity to reduce tobacco use and generate revenue needed to support Georgia families at a time they need it most.
Research continually shows that low tobacco taxes like those in SB 375 have relatively no public or fiscal health benefit and will not have the needed impact on today’s skyrocketing rates of youth e-cigarette use. Low taxes are a clear tactic by the tobacco industry and its allies to put forth legislation with little oversight that will allow them to continue their mission to addict the next generation and keep adults already addicted hooked to their deadly products.
The bill’s harmful penalties on youth for purchase, use and possessions (PUP) are especially alarming. Such laws fail to serve as a successful deterrent for youth intiation and and inappropriately shift the blame for underage tobacco use from the tobacco industry and retailers, to young people. PUP laws may be used to target certain youth. Evidence shows Black and Latinx youth report receiving citations more frequently than white youth. Suspending driver’s licenses as SB 375 does could make travel to work and school challenging creating additional problems for these young people beyond tobacco addiction.
We should be following through on life and cost-saving legislation that will truly benefit Georgia families, not punish our kids especially in communities heavily targeted by Big Tobacco. With already the third lowest cigarette tax in the nation, we can’t afford to continue to fall behind on comprehensive tobacco control measures that would save thousands of lives and billions in state dollars.
One of the most effective methods to prevent youth tobacco intiation and support adults who are addicted to quit, increasing our state’s low cigarette tax to $1.87 per pack paralleled with an equivalent increase on all other tobacco products would have brought about real benefits for the state – including over $425 million in new annual revenue and over 59,700 current adult smokers who would quit.
We look forward to working with lawmakers next year to accomplish a true health and fiscal win for Georgia -- and ensure a safe and healthy environment for all Georgians free from Big Tobacco’s grasp.”
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.