Op-Ed

A higher tax on cigarettes would help reduce the toll of tobacco in Kentucky

Tobacco Free School Campaign Rally

A rally organized by The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow was held at the Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, to launch a campaign urging legislators to pass HB11 and SB27, which would prohibit use of any tobacco product at all times on or in schools.
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A rally organized by The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow was held at the Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, to launch a campaign urging legislators to pass HB11 and SB27, which would prohibit use of any tobacco product at all times on or in schools.

This year, the Kentucky General Assembly acknowledged that we have a tobacco problem in Kentucky when they passed tobacco-free schools’ legislation.

They also imposed a tax increase on cigarettes in 2018. But this tobacco tax increase was too low to have the kind of significant public health impact that will save lives and dramatically reduce smoking in Kentucky. That’s why it’s time for the legislature to pass a tobacco tax that will effectively reduce tobacco use in our state.

Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death nationwide. In Kentucky, 34% of cancer deaths are directly related to smoking. In 2014, 3,452 cancer deaths in Kentucky were directly linked to smoking.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Research shows regular and significant increases in tobacco taxes prevent kids from becoming hooked into a lifelong addiction by the tobacco industry and help those already addicted to quit. By increasing the tax on cigarettes by $1.00 per pack, lawmakers could help save 10,600 lives, keep 13,600 kids from becoming adults who smoke and an estimated 26,100 smokers would quit.

The General Assembly raised the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents in 2018. When cigarette taxes are increased in small increments like 50 cents, major tobacco companies flood the market with coupons and discounts to keep the cost of tobacco products low. These price-reducing tactics negate the price increase to consumers and discourage quitting.

In fact, the tobacco industry now spends most of its marketing dollars on price-reducing tactics known to be most appealing to low income and other price-sensitive individuals like kids. In Kentucky alone this year, the tobacco industry will spend an estimated $278 million marketing their deadly and addictive products.

As World No Tobacco Day, May 31, approaches, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and its partners stand ready to work with the General Assembly to reduce the toll of tobacco on Kentucky. Kentucky currently has the second highest smoking rate in the country. ACS CAN has the proven policy solutions to help lawmakers reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Kristy Young is Kentucky Government Relations Director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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