Yes on tobacco tax hike
If you don’t smoke or “chew,” why should you care about Amendment 72, the proposed tax hike on tobacco products?
Because smoking costs Colorado nearly $1.9 billion in health-care costs. Raising taxes on tobacco products is a way to offset the burden that using tobacco puts on taxpayers.
More importantly, raising prices on tobacco products is one of the most effective ways to curtail smoking, which is the leading cause of preventable death in Colorado. Every year, 5,100 people in Colorado die from smoking.
The best way to drop smoking rates is to keep young people from starting. Four in five adult smokers started before they were 18. Cigarette taxes are effective because young people are especially sensitive to price increases.
Raising the tax collected on a pack of cigarettes by $1.75, and raising the tax from 40 percent to 62 percent of the price of all other tobacco products would net the state about $300 million in new revenue. That money, which won’t count against constitutional revenue limits, is earmarked for medical research, tobacco-use prevention, doctors and clinics in rural or low-income areas, veterans’ services and other health-related programs.
The tax revenue goes where it should — to benefit those paying the tax and those most harmed by the tobacco industry’s deadly products.
But opponents, funded largely by the tobacco lobby, are trying to frame the measure as a “blank check” that a money-grubbing Legislature could misdirect. There aren’t enough smokers to defeat the measure, so the opposition is trying to appeal to anti-tax sentiments by raising doubts about the direction and oversight of the funds generated by the tax.
We’re not buying this deflection technique. The ballot language is clear. It details, by percentage breakdown, the specific ways the tax revenue will be spent.
The current average price on a pack of cigarettes in Colorado is 84 cents, ranking it 38th in the nation for tobacco taxes. If Amendment 72 passes, the three-fold increase in taxes would still put Colorado outside the top 10. In other words, if raising taxes is the most effective way to get smokers to quit, Colorado should have already broached this subject, especially in light of policy directives aimed at making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.
Amendment 72 can help with goal. It dedicates a historic amount of funding to cessation and tobacco education — making Colorado the only state to exceed the funding level for these programs as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
We certainly wouldn’t expect smokers to impose an additional tax burden on themselves. But the rest of us can show them some tough love.