Maryland Leaders Urged to Increase Cigarette Tax by $1
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kids in Maryland will take center stage in the fight against tobacco on March 23 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 16th annual Kick Butts Day. Hundreds of events are planned across the nation (for a list of local events see below).
Sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco companies to stop targeting them with marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, and they want elected leaders to do more to protect them from tobacco.
In Maryland, health advocates are calling on state leaders to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack and to restore funding for tobacco prevention programs. These two measures will help prevent kids from smoking and raise much-needed revenue to address the state's budget shortfall and fund critical programs such as health care and education. According to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a $1 cigarette tax increase in Maryland would have the following benefits:
- Raise $78.6 million in new annual revenue;
- Prevent 35,000 kids from becoming smokers;
- Spur 16,800 current adult smokers to quit;
- Save 15,600 residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and
- Save $772.1 million in health care costs.
Also, in the past two years, Maryland has cut funding for its tobacco prevention program by 78 percent, from $19.6 million to $4.3 million. Maryland this year will collect $546 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 0.8 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
"On Kick Butts Day, kids are standing up to the tobacco companies, and elected officials should stand with them by supporting proven tobacco prevention measures," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We know what works to reduce smoking and other tobacco use. Every state should implement these proven solutions, including higher tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention programs and smoke-free air laws."
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. While the nation has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke.
In Maryland, tobacco use claims 6,800 lives and costs $1.96 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 11.9 percent of the state's high school students smoke, and 24,700 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year.
On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from "They put WHAT in a cigarette?" demonstrations to carnivals to rallies at state capitols. Activities in Maryland include (all events are on March 23 unless otherwise noted):
On March 24, Garret County Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) members will visit Accident Elementary School in Accident to demonstrate ways to "Kick Butts" through martial arts. Time: 4 PM. Location: 534 Accident Bittinger Road, Accident. Contact: Kendra Todd (301) 334-7730 ext. 7732.
Note to the media: For a list of Kick Butts Day events in Maryland, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/events. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.
Tamara Moore, 202-745-5114
Ashley Rockhold, 202-296-5469
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids