Survey Reveals Continued Overwhelming Support for Raising Cigarette Tax for Health Care
COLUMBIA, S.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 9, 2003--Seventy percent of South Carolinians support a 53-cent cigarette tax increase, according to a new survey released today by the coalition dedicated to raising the cigarette tax in order to secure a permanent,
Support for increasing the cigarette tax to fund health care is above 67 percent across every region of our state.
Whether among women, men, whites, African-Americans, support never falls below 70 percent.
Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans are in favor of the increase.
A majority (53 percent) of self-identified smokers who take a position on the issue supports this initiative.
"We're extremely pleased to learn that more and more South Carolinians are supporting the initiative to raise the cigarette tax to the national average of 60 cents per pack," said Ed Sellers, president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina and a member of the diverse coalition of advocacy groups, healthcare organizations and providers and members of the business community that is actively engaged in the effort to pass this initiative.
"The cigarette tax is the best way to ensure that the more than 650,000 South Carolinians on Medicaid will receive the care they need," Sellers continued. "We must commit ourselves to providing a permanent source of funding for Medicaid in our state. Failure to do so will affect every South Carolinian, not just our state's most vulnerable citizens."
Currently, South Carolina's 7-cent tobacco tax ranks as the 48th lowest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
"For many South Carolinians, Medicaid is their only source of healthcare coverage," said Sue Berkowitz, director of S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center and a member of the coalition. "By raising the cigarette tax, we will be able to provide thousands of needy seniors, children and disabled people with basic health care while relieving budget pressures on other state programs and services."
When informed that Medicaid services are provided to children and the elderly who are uninsured and that South Carolina receives a 3-1 match in federal dollars for every dollar appropriated by the state, thereby generating more than $500 million of new revenue to fund health care, more than 80 percent of survey participants agreed that increasing the cigarette tax to fund Medicaid is a wise decision.
While the cigarette tax does not directly affect the majority of South Carolinians, smoking costs the state Medicaid program approximately $307 million per year, and healthcare expenditures in South Carolina directly related to tobacco use are $768 million per year. When informed of the cost of smoking to the state Medicaid program, approximately 82 percent survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that it makes sense to tax cigarettes in order to help offset the cost.
"The survey has confirmed that voters strongly support maximum funding for Medicaid," said Sellers. "As we continue to build support for this issue, we intend to show the General Assembly that South Carolinians are ready to resolve this crisis by supporting a tax that provides a permanent source of funding for the state's Medicaid program."
For additional information about the coalition and their initiative to raise the state's cigarette tax to at least the current U.S. average of 60 cents per pack, visit the coalition's Web site at www.saveschealthcare.com or call toll-free 1-866-478-1704.