70 Percent Of Texas Voters Favor $1 Cigarette Tax Increase; Voters
Prefer Cigarette Tax To Help Balance Budget, Fund Tobacco Prevention
AUSTIN, Texas, June 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- As state leaders wrestle with the estimated $5 billion budget deficit, a new poll shows that Texas voters overwhelmingly support a significant
increase in the state's cigarette tax.
Seven out of ten Texas voters (70 percent) support a $1.00 per pack increase in the state's cigarette tax, with part of the revenue dedicated to a program to reduce tobacco use and another part of the revenue used to help address the state's budget
shortfall. This support comes from a broad-based coalition of voters, including 69 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Democrats, and 65 percent of independents. Only 29 percent of
voters oppose a $1.00 increase in the cigarette tax.
The survey of 500 registered Texas voters was released today by a statewide coalition of health groups and other organizations that includes the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and American Lung Association of Texas. The groups reiterated their support for a recent proposal
that would increase Texas' cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack and recommended that a portion of the tax revenue be dedicated to tobacco prevention efforts.
In announcing its results, the coalition declared the cigarette tax a win, win, win for Texas. An increase in the state's cigarette excise tax is a win for public health, a win for the state's fiscal health, and a win for the political health of politicians who support it.
"The cigarette tax, combined with a well-funded, sustained comprehensive tobacco prevention program, is a proven strategy to protect thousands of Texas kids from tobacco addiction while, at
the same time, helping the state address the budget crisis and protect vital programs," said Dr. Mark Clanton of the American Cancer Society.
Particularly when combined with the price increase resulting from the increased cigarette tax, tobacco prevention programs have proven to reduce tobacco use and also tobacco-related health care
costs. "In California and Massachusetts, where cigarette tax increases have been used to fund tobacco prevention programs, the states are preventing two to three dollars in tobacco-related
health care costs for every dollar they spend on the programs," said Carter Headrick of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is one of the
smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that Texas can make. It is time we take the Port Arthur pilot project statewide. That project reduced tobacco use among sixth graders by 40 percent
in one year," Headrick concluded.
Texas voters also expressed a strong preference for increasing the cigarette tax over other tax increases or spending cuts to vital programs that may be necessary to address the state's budget deficit. 72 percent of voters favor the Legislature and the
Governor increasing the cigarette tax to help balance the state budget.
Other potential revenue sources receive far less support. These include reducing funding for road and highway construction (28 percent) and increasing the state sales tax (27 percent). No other
option tested received support from even two out of ten Texas voters, including increasing gasoline taxes (19 percent), creating a statewide property tax (18 percent), reducing funding for health care programs (17 percent) and reducing funding for public education (14 percent).
"Among the options that are on the table, increasing the cigarette tax is clearly the most preferred solution to the state's revenue crisis," said Dimitri Pantazopoulos of the polling firm Market Strategies, Inc.
The poll also shows that Texas voters will express their support for a cigarette tax increase at the voting booth. By a margin of 62 percent to 30 percent, Texas voters would look favorably on a
candidate for state office who supports the cigarette tax over one who opposes it. Again, this strong preference crosses party lines as a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents choose the candidate who supports the cigarette tax.
Even more dramatically, a significant number of voters from both parties are willing to cross party lines to vote for a candidate of the opposite party who supports the cigarette tax.
The voters surveyed would favor a Democrat who supports the tax over a Republican who opposes it by a margin of 56 percent to 38 percent. This includes 40 percent of Republicans who would cross over to the Democrat. Likewise, voters would favor a Republican who supports the tax over a Democrat who opposes it by a margin of 64 percent to 30 percent. This includes 53 percent of Democrats who would cross over and vote for the Republican who acts to protect kids and help balance the budget with the cigarette tax.
"Clearly, the public views the cigarette tax in a separate category from income or other taxes. Therefore, they are not inclined to punish lawmakers who support even a substantial
cigarette tax increase," said Pantazopoulos. "In fact, they are more likely to reward these legislators with their support."
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates a $1.00 increase in the cigarette tax in Texas will generate over $1 billion in new revenue and will prevent 291,800 children from starting to smoke.
The survey was conducted by the Republican polling firm Market Strategies, Inc. The statewide poll has a random sample of 500 registered Texas voters and was conducted May 16 to May 19, 2002.
The poll has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.4 percentage points.