OKLAHOMA CITY – In response to the proposed 67 cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase, a coalition of leading national, state and local health organizations issued the following statement:
“The bill to raise cigarette taxes by 67 cents per pack is flat out wrong for Oklahoma, and the House Appropriations and Budget committee failed to protect the health of our youth by giving the state what it really needs – a cigarette tax increase that would save lives.
“Instead, the Legislature is now considering a small increase that will not keep kids from becoming addicted to cigarettes or help adults quit. The only winner in that scenario is Big Tobacco, who has spent a lot of time this year lobbying at the Capitol to keep their deadly products in the hands of Oklahoma’s children. What’s worse is that also under consideration are deep cuts to the state’s prevention and cessation programs, rounding out a good day for those in the business of peddling poisonous products.
“The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids advocate for a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax increase. Cigarettes cloud Oklahoma’s economy with costly burdens: an estimated $1.62 billion in direct medical costs and $2.1 billion in lost productivity annually. A $1.50-per-pack tax increase would generate more than $183 million in annual state revenue that improve access to health care in Oklahoma and ameliorate the state’s budget shortfall.
“Additionally, significantly raising the price of tobacco would decrease the number of youth who start smoking, increase the number of smokers who quit, cut health care costs, and reduce deaths from lung and other cancers, heart diseases, strokes and other preventable, chronic diseases. Big Tobacco knows this too, and that’s why they are fighting what would be the first tax increase in 12 years. But we can’t let them win.
“We urge the Legislature seek a meaningful cigarette tax increase, because maintaining status quo means that today there are 88,000 children in Oklahoma who will eventually die prematurely from smoking. Anything less than a $1.50-per-pack increase is a missed opportunity to save lives.”