American Heart Association supports adding $1 to Ky. cigarette tax

Published 8:01 am Monday, December 11, 2017


American Heart Association

Kentucky faces a number of important challenges when it comes to the health of our people. Our rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer are well above the national average. Smoking and the use of other tobacco products is a major contributor to these dire statistics. Although Kentucky’s smoking rate has declined in the last decade, it has not declined at the same pace as the rest of the country.

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It is estimated that 15.1 percent of Americans smoke, compared to 24.5 percent of Kentuckians — the second-highest smoking rate in the country. Tobacco use in the state results in nearly 9,000 deaths each year and more than $1.92 billion in health care expenditures.

According to a 2014 Surgeon General Report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress,” “increases in the prices of tobacco products, including those resulting from excise tax increases, prevent initiation of tobacco use, promote cessation and reduce the prevalence and intensity of tobacco use among young and adults.”

Even tobacco companies recognize that as the price of tobacco increases, more adult smokers quit and fewer kids begin the habit. And just as we know that significant increases in the price of cigarettes help reduce smoking, we also know that low tax rate increases have little effect on smoking rates, as tobacco companies offset any impact by offering discounts and coupons.

Compared to the national average of $1.71, Kentucky’s low 60-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes contributes to our high smoking rates and healthcare costs.

Raising Kentucky’s cigarette by at least $1 is anticipated to result in 11 percent fewer youth smokers and lead to nearly 30,000 current adult smokers in Kentucky quitting.

A $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase would also raise $266 million each year in new, much-needed revenue for the state. In addition, it would save Kentucky’s Medicaid program $6.25 million in just five years and result in an astounding $1.07 billion in health care savings from the long-term reduction in adult and youth smoking.

Given the devastating toll that smoking takes on our health, our workforce, our taxpayers and our health care system, it’s time for lawmakers to take real action to reduce tobacco-use in Kentucky.

We have an opportunity, and an obligation, to help Kentuckians kick this deadly habit. We’re at a crossroads. It’s time for Kentucky’s legislators to take this critical step to help reduce the impact of smoking on the citizens of our commonwealth and for the governor to support this common-sense approach. We cannot continue down the same old path.

We urge lawmakers to support a minimum $1 increase in the cigarette tax — a measure that will not only address Kentucky’s smoking epidemic, but the state’s budget deficit as well.

Dr. Donna Arnett is the former national president of the American Heart Association; Dr. Larry B. Goldstein is a board member of the American Heart Association; and Dr. Andrew Henderson is board president of the Central Kentucky Chapter of the American heart Association.