Oregon Leaders Miss Opportunity to Reduce Smoking and Save Lives -- State Needs Much Larger Tobacco Tax Increase

Oct 03, 2013, 13:46 ET from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Statement of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Our public health organizations are deeply disappointed that Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Legislature have missed an opportunity to reduce smoking and save lives by passing a bill that includes only a 13-cent increase in the state cigarette tax. This trivial cigarette tax increase will not have much, if any, impact in preventing kids from smoking, encouraging smokers to quit or reducing tobacco's terrible toll in health, lives and health care dollars. We urge Oregon's leaders to approve a much larger tobacco tax increase at the earliest opportunity.

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Many states have recognized that significant tobacco tax increases are a win-win-win solution — a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will raise revenue and reduce tobacco-caused health care costs and a political win that is popular with voters. Oregon leaders have failed to join this growing trend.

The evidence is clear that significantly increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. The 13-cent increase is too small to discourage kids from smoking or motivate smokers to quit. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. Cigarette companies can easily offset the price increase and its positive health impact with temporary price cuts, coupons and other promotional discounts.

Even with a 13-cent increase, Oregon's new cigarette tax rate of $1.31 per pack will still leave it well below the state average of $1.53 per pack. 

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Oregon, claiming nearly 7,000 lives each year and costing the state $1.1 billion annually in health care bills, including $287 million in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $562 each year on every Oregon household. In addition, 11.5 percent of Oregon high school students currently smoke, and 15,200 Oregon kids try smoking for the first time each year.

We urge Oregon's leaders to pass a tax at the earliest opportunity that truly benefits Oregonians and reduces tobacco's toll on our state.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids