What are we doing?
Our Mission: To improve Kentucky's health by protecting Kentuckians from secondhand smoke and other tobacco emissions, and by reducing the high rate of smoking and tobacco use in the Commonwealth.
In 2021, the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow will advocate for giving cities and counties the authority to adopt ordinances governing the marketing and sale of tobacco products in their communities. Local Tobacco Control is prohibited by state law right now, and we will be working to repeal that law, which was adopted in 1996 at the behest of Big Tobacco, which wanted to repeal laws, and prevent new ones, that improved health by reducing tobacco use. Learn more here.[BH1]
The Coalition focused on three priorities during the 2020 General Assembly – raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 (“Tobacco 21”) in Kentucky, adding an excise tax on e-cigarettes, and increasing the funding for Kentucky’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation program. The COVID-19 pandemic ended the legislative session early, but we were successful in achieving some of our goals:
Kentucky raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 on March 26, 2020. The bill also removed provisions from Kentucky law that research shows result in worse health outcomes for youth – these purchase, youth and possession (or “PUP”) provisions also took the focus off retailers’ responsibility to ensure that their customers are 21 or older.
Kentucky also adopted an excise tax on e-cigarettes. As of August 1, 2020, “closed” e-cigarette systems such as the Juul brand, which can be reused with pre-filled replacement pods, and disposable pod-based e-cigarettes such as Puff Bars and numerous other brands, are subject to an excise tax of $1.50 per pod. “Open systems” which are typically purchased at vape stores, are taxed at $0.15 per milliliter of e-liquid.
Unfortunately, the program that works to prevent tobacco use in the first place, and to help those who are addicted to nicotine quit successfully, was cut by 40 percent in the 2021 fiscal budget. The legislature only passed a single-year budget instead of the typical two-year budget because of the pandemic, and the Coalition is concerned that COVID related revenue declines and the shorter legislative session in 2021 will put the budget for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program at risk of even further reductions. The Coalition strongly believes that preventing tobacco use and helping tobacco users quit successfully is a responsible, cost-effective expenditure of state tax dollars.
In 2019, the Coalition engaged in an intense, targeted campaign to reduce youth exposure to tobacco products while they are at school or engaged in school activities. We also continued to advocate for comprehensive local smoke-free ordinances in all workplaces.
A tobacco-free schools bill was signed into law on April 9. Unfortunately, the bill contained an “opt out” provision that gives school districts three years to decide against protecting their students. Still, before the new law, 42 percent of Kentucky school districts had voluntarily adopted tobacco-free campus policies. But as of September 2020, 97 percent of Kentucky’s school districts have adopted tobacco-free campus policies!
The Coalition continues to encourage the remaining five school districts to go tobacco-free. See www.tobaccofreestudents.org for more information.
On July 1, 2018, the state excise tax on a pack of cigarettes in Kentucky rose from 60 cents to $1.10 on July 1, following a campaign by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow that launched in October 2017. The Coalition advocated for a $1 per pack increase, which was shown to reduce smoking particularly among youth and pregnant women in Kentucky.
The last time the legislature raised the cigarette tax was in 2009, when it rose from 30 cents to 60 cents per pack. The revenue measure was a companion to the first budget passed by a Republican-led legislature in a century in Kentucky.
During the first 12 months after the cigarette tax went into effect, 39 million fewer packs of cigarettes were purchased in Kentucky, a 10.1 percent drop from the prior 12 months. Prior to 2018, cigarette purchases had been declining about 3.5 percent a year. Nationally, cigarette purchases dropped 6 percent during the 12 months after Kentucky’s cigarette tax increase went into effect.