Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Isn't tripling California's tobacco tax a bit too much?

Nobody thinks that smoking is good for anyone but nobody really wants to help smokers quit. Instead society has been brainwashed into thinking that smoking "is just a bad habit". If smokers REALLY wanted to quit, they would, after all smoking is their CHOICE. 
But smoking is not a choice that most smokers would make. They do want to quit. Each year about half of all smokers try to quit and yet only about 5% are successful. Why? Because smoking is an addiction. It is more than just a physical dependency.

A former surgeon general has said that nicotine is more addictive than heroin. Yet if you are addicted to heroin, there are treatment programs to treat it. But smokers are told to "just quit" instead of giving them the treatment they need. 

What does this have to do with increasing the tobacco tax in California from .87 cents to $2.87? 

When I started advocating for tobacco control issues in the early 1990's, there were about five people working in public health division for tobacco control. They offered free cessation classes to the public. (I know because I trained their facilitator). In San Bernardino they had a robust group working in tobacco control. Now there is one person in Riverside county doing the job that five did before and San Bernardino has no one - they closed down the tobacco control division in public health. 

The tobacco tax in California hasn't been raised since 1988 and it needs to be raised to provide monies for existing programs that are either underfunded or have been shut down due to lack of money. The smokers in California deserve to have help available to them. 

Currently the tobacco companies outspend us 15 to 1. For every dollar spend in California helping smokers quit, the tobacco companies are spending 15 dollars enticing our youth to start smokers and encouraging current smokers to continue. 

California used to be a leader in tobacco control but lobbying on behalf of the tobacco companies has stopped any forward movement in the state through the legislature. Currently the tobacco tax in California is only .17 cents higher than Kentucky. We are #33 in the country. At $2.87 we barely break the top ten. The city of Chicago leads the nation with a combined state and local tax of $6.16, followed by New York City at $5.85.

Besides funding existing tobacco control programs in the state, this tobacco tax will go into California's Medi-cal program (medicaid) for smoking related disease and research. Currently the average each household pays in state tax to cover the costs related to smoking is over $600 a year. In 2009, health care costs from smoking were about 13.3 Billion (yes, BILLION- just for California). Each year about 40,000 people in California die from smoking and almost 17,000 teens start smoking. The CDC estimates that we only spend about 17% of what California should spend to stop teens from starting and to help current smokers quit. 

Raising the tobacco tax will help smokers quit, prevent teens from starting and will save lives. To me, $2.00 isn't enough, but it's a start. Remember to vote YES on increasing the tobacco tax in November. for more information visit: http://www.savelivesca.com/

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