Florida Tobacco Tax Proposal

It makes sense. Cigarettes cost the state of Florida about $6 billion a year in exorbitant health care costs associated with heart disease, cancers and hospitalizations, according to the Alliance for Healthy Florida Campaign.

Productivity on the job decreases among smokers too. This creates a financial deficit for all Floridians.

Nationally, the CDC estimates smoking-related illness costs all Americans more than $75 billion a year. About 14 percent of all Medicaid expenses are for smoking-related illness. Since cigarette sales contribute the bulk of the state’s tobacco tax income – increasing the tax may offset some of the burden of cigarettes and smoking.

The American Lung Association estimates that a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes would cause four percent to quit smoking. The state’s youth would likely not start because of the cost, at least fewer would.

The $1 billion raised annually would go to offset health care cuts and fund Florida’s KidCare plan that covers uninsured children. Half would go into general revenues.

With the state in a serious economic downturn and a budget about $6 billion less than last year, its youth programs, school spending, hospitals and social programs that are taking the hit. Instead of raiding funds from elsewhere doesn’t it make sense to add to tax revenues with a cigarette tax?

Florida sells more cigarettes than any other state but today the tax is less than 10 percent of the cost per pack, the fifth lowest cigarette tax in the nation. When the state last raised the tax in 1990, it represented one-quarter of the cost of a pack.

Currently there is legislation in the Florida Senate (SB 2790) to raise the tax to $1, matching both Texas and South Dakota.

Senator Jeremy Ring, D-Broward County who co-sponsored the bill states, “I see a cigarette tax as an absolute win-win. Any time we can try to get new revenue and at the same time try to halt people from smoking; to me it’s an absolute no-brainer.”

Florida’s Gov. Charlie Crist opposes the bill questioning why smokers should bear the entire burden of the tax. Maybe because they are the ones who are smoking?

Reducing teen smoking and generating an estimated $1 billion in revenue to offset cuts in health care sound like a win-win for everyone, except smokers.

You can visit Florida Tobacco Tax Website and sign the e-petition to let lawmakers know your support or opposition.