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Healthy tax for New York, Sharon Fischer-February, 2010-2-20

Maintaining adequate funding for New York’s Tobacco Control Program and increasing the tobacco excise tax by $1 are wise strategies to contribute to the health and financial stability of the residents of New York State.

If you think tobacco use and tobacco excise taxes don’t affect you, think again. Both measures are effective in deterring youth from initiating smoking and assisting established smokers to quit. Lower smoking rates, in turn, reduce the costs to treat illnesses caused by tobacco use. Each New York household pays $822 in state and federal taxes for treatment of smoking-related diseases, a burden New Yorkers cannot continue to pay.

New York‘s Tobacco Control Program is one of the few state programs that is required to be assessed annually by an independent evaluator. Research Triangle Institute, the program evaluator states, “The TCP’s efforts have led to declines in youth and adult smoking rates that have outpaced national declines from 2003 through early 2008.” History shows us that when other states have reduced their tobacco control budgets, higher smoking rates among youth and adults resulted, in turn causing increases in health care costs to treat the tobacco-related illnesses that ultimately result.

An increase in the price of tobacco is also an effective deterrent to youth smoking and a strong motivator to quit among adult smokers. Every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes will reduce youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent.

According to estimates by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an increase of $1 per pack would be expected to prevent more than 100,000 children from becoming smokers and cause more than 50,000 adult smokers to quit. In New York, 59 percent of adults support a $1 increase in the cigarette tax. If revenue from the tax is used to help smokers quit, 77 percent of New Yorkers support a tax increase.

Both of these measures – increasing the excise tax on tobacco and maintaining funding for New York’s Tobacco Control Program – directly contribute to the personal and financial health of the residents of New York State.

Sharon Fischer is tobacco control coordinator for the Broome County Health Department

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