Increase Kentucky cigarette tax $1.50
Smoking costs the state more than $6.14 for every pack sold. Research shows that significant increases in the price of tobacco will prevent children from becoming lifelong tobacco users.
As a physician who works with cancer patients every day, I see the devastating toll tobacco takes. I believe that we must do everything possible to reduce the suffering and early deaths of these patients, including raising the price of tobacco in a way that will make it harder for our youth to start smoking. Addiction to tobacco starts early. Nearly 80 percent of all adult smokers started smoking by age 18, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Tragically, 119,000 kids currently under the age of 18 in Kentucky today will ultimately die prematurely from smoking. These are heart-wrenching statistics but they can change. Last month, a large group of organizations with both health and economic interests came together to discuss the need to reduce tobacco use in Kentucky. The summit was hosted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. Out of this summit came a broad consensus amongst the organizations that a cigarette tax increase of $1 or more per pack is needed to help our children lead healthy and long lives.
Research shows that significant increases in the price of tobacco will prevent children from becoming lifelong tobacco users and will help those already addicted to quit. If our state legislature increased the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack, our lawmakers could help save the lives of 22,200 Kentuckians, keep 34,900 kids from using tobacco and help an estimated 44,100 people quit smoking for good. A $1.50 per pack tax increase won’t just save lives; it will save money and generate revenue, helping to fulfill a goal set out by Gov. Matt Bevin.
Kentucky’s cigarette tax is currently 60 cents, but smoking costs the state more than $6.14 for every pack sold. The annual health care expenditures in Kentucky directly caused by tobacco use total more than $1.92 billion – including nearly $590 million spent on smoking-related issues by Medicaid. A $1.50 cigarette tax increase would save $1.6 billion in health care costs long-term because of the declines in adult and youth tobacco use. It would also generate an estimated $352.37 million in new revenue. That’s money that could be invested back into the state’s economy – more important than ever at a time when Kentucky is facing very difficult economic challenges.
As a doctor whose life’s work has been to help cancer patients and their families face, fight and defeat cancer, I believe that we should do everything we can to make it harder for our youth to start smoking. I strongly encourage our state leaders to do the right thing and support healthy Kentuckians by raising the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack.
Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville.