REPORT SHOWS NATIONWIDE TREND SAVES LIVES, YIELDS HEALTH CARE SAVINGS Thirty states could reap big benefits by raising cigarette taxes to national average

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A report by SmokeLess States reveals that thirty states could reap big benefits by raising state cigarette taxes to national average of 72 cents per pack.

The 30 states with cigarette tax rates below the national average could reap significant health and financial gains if they increase those rates, according to a report released this week by the SmokeLess States National Tobacco Policy Initiative. Since January 2002, 30 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have raised cigarette taxes, part of growing national trend. However, many have yet to reach the national average, forgoing the tremendous benefits of higher cigarette taxes.

The report is part of the ongoing Tobacco Tax Challenge launched in 2002 to encourage states to increase cigarette taxes to save lives. It was developed by the SmokeLess States National Tobacco Policy Initiative in cooperation with other leading national health organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the American Medical Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Copies of the report can be viewed on the SmokeLess States Web site:

“Increasing state cigarette taxes continues to be one of the most effective ways to reduce youth smoking and to encourage adults to quit,” said Dr. Thomas Houston, Co-Director, SmokeLess States National Tobacco Policy Initiative. “Additionally, higher cigarette taxes generate significant and immediate revenue for states while saving health care dollars in the long-term.”

According to a survey conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, states expect a $53.5 billion shortfall during the current fiscal year. If all 30 states that are currently below the national average raised their cigarette taxes to reach the mean, more than $4.0 billion in revenue could be generated in the first year alone.

“This report once again demonstrates that increasing state cigarette taxes is good public health policy, good fiscal policy and politically popular among voters and state lawmakers across the country,” said Houston. “Thirty states have much to gain in terms of lives and money saved if this policy option is implemented.”

Research shows that for every 10 percent increase in price, cigarette consumption among youth decreases by seven percent. According to the report, higher cigarette taxes, combined with prevention and cessation initiatives, cut smoking rates, reduce smoking-related illnesses and save health care dollars.

All 50 states combined spend more than $75 billion each year in both public and private health care dollars treating sick and dying smokers. Smoking kills more than 400,000 people every year in the U.S. and is the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, outpacing alcohol, homicide, AIDS and illegal drugs combined.

Headquartered in Chicago, the SmokeLess States National Tobacco Policy Initiative is a program of The American Medical Association and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. With 42 grantees, SmokeLess States is the largest non-governmental-funded national effort in tobacco prevention and control, and the third largest nationwide tobacco prevention program behind the federal government and the American Legacy Foundation in Washington, DC.


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Pete Selfridge