McDowell Health CEO supports $1 increase on cigarette tax

Published 9:16 am Monday, January 29, 2018

Dear Editor,

Many of our citizens have heard of efforts to support an increase in the cigarette tax. It was recently discussed in the state’s Health and Welfare Committee and there has been a bill introduced by Sen. Stephen Meredith. I personally support a tax increase of at least $1 per pack on cigarettes sold in Kentucky, which will help reduce smoking and tobacco-related disease in Kentucky.

Our current excise tax of 60 cents per pack is one of the lowest rates in the country and significantly below the national average tax of $1.72 per pack. Raising it by $1 to $1.60 or more will prevent 23,200 kids from starting to smoke, enable 5,900 babies to be born healthier and lead 29,400 adults to quit smoking. Over five years, this would save Kentucky $31.6 million in medical costs related to smoking.

Email newsletter signup

In addition, the tax increase would help businesses in Kentucky be ore competitive by improving worker health and help Kentucky attract more new businesses to locate here. Many people are already aware of the damage tobacco use causes to their health and would like to quit, but haven’t been able to break the powerful nicotine addiction. Health care providers throughout the commonwealth like Ephraim McDowell offer effective resources to begin a tobacco-free life.

Kentucky has the highest rate of cancer in the nation and the highest rate of cancer tied to smoking at 34 percent. Smoking affects almost every organ in the body and causes hear disease, asthma, strokes and COPD.

The experience of many other states proves that a $1 or more increase will reduce smoking, improve health and reduce health care expenditures. But it must be at least $1, otherwise the tobacco companies will use coupons to undermine the cost impact and eliminate the health benefits.

Sally Davenport

President and CEO, Ephraim McDowell Health