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Coalition files initiative to raise state’s tobacco tax

October 08, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy Public Health 


Save Lives California—a broad coalition of physicians, patients, taxpayers and health care workers—has filed an initiative with the Attorney General’s office that would increase California’s tax on cigarettes by $2 per pack.

Through the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, the Save Lives California coalition aims to reduce the death toll—and associated health costs—caused by smoking, while generating some much-needed funds to help improve a variety of the state’s health care programs.

“The initiative filed today will benefit Californians by reducing smoking rates and long-term health care costs,” said Luther F. Cobb, M.D., president of the California Medical Association, a member of the coalition. “Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in California, killing more people than car accidents, suicide, alcohol, illegal drugs and AIDS combined. What’s more, this initiative will help find cures for cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses that we see far too much of.”

The coalition has received major funding from successful businessperson and philanthropist Tom Steyer. Steyer, who has built a reputation for himself as a generous donor, called on Californians to join him in “standing up” to Big Tobacco.

“These companies profit from a product that kills millions of people around the world every year and is the leading cause of preventable death in California,” Steyer said. “We have a moral obligation to increase the tobacco tax because it will save lives and money by encouraging smokers to quit, and by preventing young people from ever becoming addicted.”

Ninety percent of smokers start as teens, according to studies from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In California, about half of the 21,000 youths who become addicted to smoking every year will die from a tobacco-related illness.

The Save Lives California initiative seeks to reduce those numbers by implementing a needed $2 tax increase on cigarette packs—a concept that’s already gained an overwhelming number of supporters across political party lines. A Field Poll released in August showed two-thirds of those surveyed support such a measure.

Currently, California’s cigarette tax is among the lowest in the nation, at 87 cents per pack. California is also the only state in the country, besides Missouri, that hasn’t raised its cigarette tax in the past 17 years.

“Reducing smoking saves lives and health costs, plain and simple,” said Olivia (Gertz) Diaz-Laphm, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California, which is also a member of Save Lives California.

For more information on the Save Lives California coalition or its $2 per pack initiative, visit www.savelivescalifornia.com.

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