Leading public health organizations are urging Rhode Island lawmakers to reject a 4-cent per pack increase in the state cigarette tax that was included in the proposed FY2013 budget and to approve a much larger increase that can reduce smoking and save lives, while raising significant new revenue for the state. Scientific evidence shows that small cigarette tax increases such as that proposed in Rhode Island are not enough to reduce smoking, especially given significant tobacco spending to discount the price of cigarettes and make them more affordable and appealing to kids.
Public health organizations supporting the larger cigarette tax increase include the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Rhode Island and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
A significant tobacco tax increase is a win-win-win solution for Rhode Island – a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that reduces tobacco-related health care costs and raises revenue to fund essential programs, and a political win that polls show is popular with the voters.
Public health advocates urge the General Assembly to pass House Bill 7715 introduced by Rep. Art Handy (D-Cranston), which would increase the cigarette tax by 90 cents per pack. Raising the cigarette tax by 90 cents is estimated to keep more than 3,000 Rhode Island kids from becoming smokers, encourage almost 2,900 adult smokers to quit and save 1,600 Rhode Islanders from a premature death from tobacco use. It would also produce almost $16 million in new annual revenue for the state and save more than $100 million in future, tobacco-related health care costs.