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Cancer Society Proposes $1 Increase In Cigarette Tax

A $1 tax increase could cause 77,000 adults to quit smoking and prevent 85,000 kids from ever starting smoking in Pennsylvania, according to the American Cancer Society.

The organization and its affiliate the Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) are partnering with the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association to convince Pennsylvania lawmakers to consider adding a dollar to the $1.60 per pack tax.

The groups are saying that the increase could save almost 50,000 lives in Pennsylvania.

“The reason that we are asking for this is that we know that as the price of tobacco products increases consumption goes down, and we would definitely like to see fewer adults smoking," said Diane Phillips, director of government relations for ACS CAN. "We also know that this significantly impacts young people, children, and they are absolutely our target.”

New York currently has the highest state tax at $4.35 per pack of cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  18.1 percent of the nation’s population smokes, compared to 21.4 percent of Pennsylvanians.

Also the groups are advocating that lawmakers begin to tax smokeless tobacco. Currently Pennsylvania is the only state not to tax chewing tobacco or snuff.

If the tax is increased, that would mean an additional $356.4 million in revenues based on current cigarette purchases.

“Historically we have had some cutbacks in the tobacco prevention and cessation program area in Pennsylvania, and we would certainly like to see some of the money go to those important programs. We support lawmakers looking at taxing cigarettes and also creating a tax on smokeless tobacco,” said Phillips.

The tax will be added to the $30.3 million annually that goes to Children’s Health Insurance Program. Also most states are still receiving a portion of the $206 billion settlement from tobacco companies from 1998.

So far Pennsylvania has received $5.2 billion from the settlement, of which 12 percent, or $624 million, has gone toward prevention and cessation programs.

The groups are seeking legislative sponsors to write and support a bill to raise the cigarette tax.