Health Groups Call for Doubling of Cigarette Excise Tax to $3.00/Pack

Kick Off Media Campaign to Activate Broad Public Support

ALBANY, NY (03/05/2008)(readMedia)-- Urging action guaranteed to save thousands of lives, a broad coalition of public health organizations is calling on state leaders to approve a $1.50 increase in the state cigarette excise tax. Revenue from the tax would be invested in programs that increase access to health care and in enhanced efforts to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting.

The coalition unveiled a new paid media campaign to raise public awareness of the proposal. Newspaper and radio advertising will appear in major markets across the state urging people to let legislators know that they support a $1.50 cigarette tax increase.

The coalition also released the results of a statewide survey commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of 840 likely voters showing that 79 percent of New Yorkers support the measure; 63 percent of smokers said they favor the move. The survey was conducted in late February by Global Strategy Group and Public Opinion Strategies and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

“The impact of price on cigarette consumption is well documented,” said Russell Sciandra, Director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York. “A $1.50 increase in the cigarette tax will boost the average price of cigarettes about 25 percent, reducing the teenage smoking rate 16% and the adult smoking rate 5 percent.”

“Even taking into account increased tax evasion, the price increase will encourage 168,000 adults to quit smoking and prevent 291,000 children under 18 from ever becoming smokers,” Sciandra said. “The tax will encourage 45,000 adults to stop smoking in time to save their lives from tobacco-caused disease, and generate at least $500 million in new revenue - more when the state reduces evasion, which we strongly encourage. And it will decrease health care costs in the best possible way – by helping people stay healthy”

Groups endorsing the tax increase include: American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association of New York State, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Medical Society of the State of New York, New York Chapter, American College of Physicians, New York State Nurses Association, New York State Oral Health Coalition, New York Public Interest Research Group, New York State Academy of Family Physicians, and the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy.

“It’s good public health policy to use some of the revenue from an increased tax to fund smoking cessation assistance,” said Dr. Robert Goldberg, President of the Medical Society of the State of New York. “Physicians throughout New York State are striving to help patients quit smoking and the Medical Society is continuing to educate physicians to assist their patients in this effort. An increase in tobacco tax is a public policy initiative long supported by the Medical Society and today’s initiative will help to ensure that children never begin smoking and that smokers will be provided with the assistance that they need to quit.”

"Increasing the cigarette tax is a good for everyone,” said Cheryl Gelder-Kogan, Vice President of the American Cancer Society Capital Region Board of Advisors. “It will further reduce smoking rates and saves lives, while reducing health care costs and increasing revenue to the state. Forty-five other states have raised taxes since New York did, and we have slipped from our strong position to only 16th highest in the nation. This is a great opportunity for New York to reassert its leadership in tobacco control."

“We know increasing the cigarette tax will lower smoking rates and is sound public policy,” said Dr. Edward Philbin, spokesperson for the American Heart Association and Chief of Cardiology at Albany Medical Center. “As a healthcare provider, I’m on the frontline in the fight against heart disease. Now it’s up to the legislature and the Governor to raise the cigarette tax and saves a countless number of New Yorkers from heart disease and premature death.”

“Patients tell me if they could be teenagers again, they never would have started smoking,” said Dr. Jun David, President-elect of the New York State Academy of Family Physicians. “So, every possible step should be taken to discourage teens from taking up the habit and a tax that increases the price of tobacco is one of the most powerful steps. Enact the tax.”

“Eight in 10 New Yorkers support this tax, and collectively, that is a very loud voice,” said Michael Seilback, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the American Lung Association of New York State. “The members of this coalition will be activating our networks of members, donors and volunteers – literally hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers- to tell their legislators to increase the cigarette tax, fund programs that reduce smoking, and expand health care access.”


Tobacco Facts

Tobacco Impact on Health and Health Care Costs

Adult Smoking Rate, New York – 18.2% (2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey)

Number of Adult Smokers, New York – 2.8 million

Deaths caused by tobacco, New York 2006 – 25,500

New Yorkers alive with tobacco-caused illness – 570,000

Annual health care expenditures caused by tobacco, New York 2006 - $8.17 billion

Annual Medicaid expenditures caused by tobacco, New York 2006 - $5.4 billion

Annual tobacco-caused productivity losses from premature death, New York - $6.02 billion

Tobacco-caused health costs and productivity losses per pack of cigarettes sold - $21.91

Teenage Smoking

Middle School students who smoke, New York 2006 – 4.1%

High School students who smoke, New York 2006 – 16.3%

Kids under 18 who became regular smokers, New York 2006- 27,700

Youths ages 0 – 17 projected to die from smoking, New York – 389,000

Impact of $1.50 Cigarette Tax Increase

Average retail price of cigarettes - $5.82

25% increase in price = 6% decrease in adult prevalence = 168,800 fewer adult smokers

168,800 fewer adult smokers = 44,700 fewer tobacco-caused deaths

25% increase in price = 16% decrease in youth prevalence = 11,100 fewer high school smokers

25% increase in price = 291,900 kids alive today who will not become smokers, saving 93,400 from tobacco-caused death