In the wake of the Governor’s efforts to push the Senate last week to reduce a cigarette tax increase by $.47, a statewide public health coalition challenged the Governor today to back up his claims against the tax with actual statistics.
The Vermont Senate on Friday rejected a proposed $1.00 increase in the tax after much lobbying from the Governor, despite the fact that both the Senate Finance and Health and Welfare Committees strongly endorsed a $1.00 increase. Coordinator for the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont, Tina Zuk said today, that the Coalition has years of evidence showing a significant increase in the cigarettes tax will get adults to quit, prevent kids from smoking cigarettes and raise much-needed revenue for the state while cutting health care costs. But, Governor Shumlin has strongly opposed the tax with no data supporting his claims.
“Seventy-six percent of Vermonters want a $1.00 increase and twenty-five years of research shows its effective, yet the governor continues to make unfounded claims against it. It’s time for the Governor to show clear evidence that a significant increase wouldn’t work or give the green light to the conference committee that a higher tax is needed,” said Zuk.
The Coalition presented media and the Governor’s office with a report from the State’s own Joint Fiscal Office and a briefing book showing data behind the effectiveness of a substantial tax increase in reducing tobacco use and providing a sustainable revenue source for states. The Coalition urged the Governor to produce similar data to back up his claims that increasing the cigarette tax would not reduce smoking cigarettes and produce Vermont with revenue that even state economists have projected.
“The governor wants real health care reform, but to do so, it needs to be comprehensive and that means addressing tobacco head-on,” said Rebecca Ryan, director of Health Promotion and Public Policy for the American Lung Association. “Vermont was a national leader in reducing the devastating impact of tobacco use, but the state’s investment in programs to prevent kids from smoking cigarettes and helping adults quit has been dramatically reduced over the last three years. In addition, the evidence is clear that increasing the price of a pack of cigarettes is most effective at preventing kids from smoking cigarettes, Vermont has not had a significant increase since 2006 and the youth smoking cigarettes rate has not changed since 2005. By raising the price of a pack of discount cigarettes by at least 10%, Vermont has a tremendous opportunity to reduce the youth smoking cigarettes rate and prevent future health care costs. Why wait?”