Kentucky has the highest rate of smoking in the nation and, not surprisingly, the highest rate of cancer in the nation. And, according to the recently released Louisville Health Equity report, the top three causes of death in Louisville over the past five years – cancer, heart disease and COPD – are directly linked to smoking.
We also have one of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the nation, which works against efforts to curb smoking and deaths related to smoking.
It’s time to change that. As Mayor Greg Fischer proposed in his State of the City address Jan. 4, it is time to increase the tax on tobacco to at least $1.60 a pack.
Our current cigarette tax of 60 cents a pack ranks us 43rd in the country, significantly below the national average cigarette tax of $1.71. Raising the price of cigarettes is the single most effective way to prevent our kids from taking up the tobacco habit and to reduce smoking among pregnant women. This move has proven very successful in reducing smoking rates in other states.
If Kentucky lawmakers were to raise the tobacco tax to $1.60 a pack, the data shows us that 14,800 fewer people in Kentucky would die prematurely, 23,200 kids would never start smoking, 29,400 adults would quit and 5,900 babies would be born healthier because their moms had quit.
We would also save $31.6 million in medical costs across Kentucky over five years and would raise an additional $266.2 million in revenue for things like healthcare, pensions and roads.
Numerous surveys over the years have indicated that this is one tax increase that voters will support. It’s also good for business. Businesses across the state lose $2.8 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) in reduced production due to smoking. Our high rate of smoking – 62 percent higher than the national average – makes it much more difficult for Kentucky to attract new business and jobs.
The Louisville Metro Board of Health strongly urges the Kentucky General Assembly to support a move that is good for all Kentuckians’ health – raise the tobacco tax to $1.60 a pack.
We also encourage our lawmakers to apply the tax increase across the board to other harmful products, such as smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes. Young people in Kentucky, like their counterparts across the nation, have begun using electronic cigarettes at astonishing rates – with a 900 percent rise from 2011 to 2015.
Electronic cigarettes are not a safe alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes, and studies show that young people who use electronic cigarettes often become dual users of electronic and conventional cigarettes. The Louisville Metro Council made a wise decision to include electronic cigarettes under Louisville’s Smoke Free Law last year.
Join us in urging the legislature to make another wise move: Increase Kentucky’s tobacco tax. A $1 increase is a win for our kids, a win for business and a win for our state.
Submitted on behalf of the Louisville Metro Board of Health, which includes Director Sarah Moyer, Board Chair Karen M. Cost, board chair, Margaret Handmaker, Sherry Babbage, Dwayne Compton, Erin Frazier, Maria Nota, Mary Katherine Probst, Connie Sorrell and Gerald Temes.