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Public Health Groups Laud Proposed $1.50 Increase in Tobacco Tax To Protect Kids, Save Lives and Raise Needed Revenue

January 31, 2017

 Leading public health groups expressed strong support for new legislation unveiled today to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack and impose an equivalent tax on other tobacco products including cigars, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes. 

Sponsored by Senator Howie Morales (D-Silver City) and Representative Liz Thomson (D-Albuquerque), Senate Bill 231 and House Bill 282 would add a buck-and-a-half-pack tax to cigarettes and an equivalent tax to other tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, which are surging in popularity among young people.  

“At current rates, an estimated 40,000 New Mexico kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking,” said bill sponsor Senator Howie Morales. “Along with saving lives, my bill will raise a projected additional $31.66 million from the cigarette tax increase and $10.7 million more from the tax on other tobacco products such as smokeless tobacco.”

Health organizations including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free strongly support the $1.50 per pack tobacco tax increase designed to keep cigarettes and a vast array of other tobacco products out of the hands of kids, while also lowering health costs from tobacco use and restoring critically important tobacco prevention and education funding.  

Research shows that increasing tobacco taxes will have a significant public health impact. The $1.50 increase is projected to lower youth smoking rates by 17 percent and keep an estimated 11,700 kids from starting to smoke. Additionally, it’s projected that more than 14,400 current adult smokers would quit smoking. The tobacco tax increase would also prevent 7,300 premature deaths due to smoking and save the state nearly $534 million in long-term health care costs due to smoking.

The same poll indicates it is not “politics as usual” when it comes to tobacco taxes. In the impending budget battle, raising taxes on tobacco products is one of the few options that everyone can agree on.  Even among groups typically unhappy with taxes, such as conservative voters, support for a tobacco tax hike reaches as high as 80 percent.

“Voters clearly tell us time and time again that tobacco tax increases are not the same as other tax increases,” said ACS CAN New Mexico Director of Government Relations Sandra Adondakis.  “Even a majority of regular smokers back an increase in the tobacco tax and extending the tax to other forms of tobacco products such as e-cigarettes.”

New Mexico’s tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes has not been increased since its inception in 1986. Significant increases in tobacco taxes are a proven way to prevent and reduce tobacco use and have been endorsed as a public health strategy by the U.S. Surgeon General , the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“American Cancer Society statistics show cancer has risen to become the #1 killer in New Mexico and we know that 30 percent of all cancers are caused from tobacco use. We need a meaningful tax increase on cigarettes and all tobacco products in order to curb the devastating personal and economic losses from these deadly products,” said Adondakis.

In the final hours of last year’s special session, New Mexico lawmakers broke a promise to protect future generations from deadly tobacco addiction by draining the $220 million Tobacco Settlement Permanent Fund to fix the state budget crisis.  Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continues spending an estimated $34.8 million a year on marketing in New Mexico to lure the next generation of tobacco users.

New Mexico will collect $133.8 million in revenue this year from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 4.2 percent of the money on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement provides compensation to the states for tobacco-related suffering, death and disease caused by major tobacco companies. 

“These dollars are normally paid into the Tobacco Settlement Permanent Fund, a restricted ‘savings account’ created in New Mexico to provide long-term, stable funding for tobacco control and chronic disease prevention, but syphoning the fund last year may have long-lasting consequences,” said Poqueen Rivera, American Heart Association Government Relations Director for New Mexico. “State lawmakers must do more to protect our kids and increasing the tobacco tax is a good place to start.”

About the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.

About the American Lung Association in New Mexico 
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit our website: Lung.org.

About the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. Tobacco-Free Kids works to save lives by advocating for public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke. Learn more at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

About the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association
The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Keres Consulting, Inc. 
Keres Consulting, Inc is a Native American-owned, New Mexico-based small business that cares about the impact of commercial tobacco in New Mexico’s tribal communities. It works to eliminate death and disease caused from commercial tobacco through commercial tobacco prevention, cessation and education in Native American communities throughout New Mexico.     

About the March of Dimes
Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. From polio to prematurity the March of Dimes has focused on researching the problems that threaten our children and finding ways to prevent them.

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Media Contacts

Sandra Adondakis
NM Government Relations Director