Group Proposes Cigarette Tax Hike in New England
BOSTON (Reuters Health) - Smokers in New England may have to cough up more cash for cigarettes if a proposed tax hike is passed.
The proposal for a first-of-its-kind unified tax increase was made by the Alliance for a Healthy New England, a coalition of healthcare providers, consumer groups and tobacco control organizations based in Boston. The six New England states include Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine.
The group unveiled its plan here at the meeting of the American Public Health Association. It hopes that a 50-cent tax increase will be instated by 2002.
``We know that beyond a shadow of any doubt...that raising tobacco prices is the single most effective way of reducing tobacco use across all ages, across all populations and most importantly amongst our youth,'' Judith B. Stephany, a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society told meeting attendees.
For every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes, there is a corresponding 3% to 5% decline in overall use of tobacco products, she explained. Youths are two to three times more sensitive to price increases and a corresponding decrease of 7% can be expected.
The group states that they would use the added revenue generated by the tax to broaden access to healthcare across the New England region. Currently, about 1.4 million people in New England--or 10% of the population--lack health insurance coverage.
``It is a win-win situation for us,'' Stephany said.
While the group admits that they expect stiff opposition from the tobacco industry, they point to recent study findings that show that they have popular opinion on their side.
The study, conducted in August, randomly surveyed nearly 2,500 New England residents. There is uniform support for a 50-cent tax increase on cigarettes across all six states, reported Andrew Smith of the New Hampshire Survey Center in Durham.
Nearly 86% of those surveyed said they would vote for a lawmaker who would raise the cigarette tax, according to Smith. In addition, there was overwhelming support--between 80% and 90%--for the use of the revenue to go towards such programs as antismoking campaigns for youths and prescription drug support for senior citizens.
The announcement came just 2 days before the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout campaign, in which smokers are encouraged to quit for the day.
``Tobacco use causes 30% of all cancers and it is the single most preventable cause of death and disease. Each day, 61 people in New England die as a result of their tobacco use. This amounts to over 21,000 people per year,'' Stephany told attendees.