The California Medical Association joined an unprecedented coalition of health care groups this week seeking to increase the tobacco tax by $2-per-pack by the end of 2016 to save lives and to defray the cost of diseases caused by smoking.
Called the Save Lives California coalition, other members include the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, SEIU California, Health Access California and the California Hospital Association. The group will seek an increase in tobacco taxes either through legislation or ballot measure.
It is hoped that a tax increase will lower the cost of providing care to smokers in the state. A recent study on California’s tobacco use by the University of California at San Francisco School of Nursing’s Institute for Health and Aging found that smoking costs $18.1 billion in California – $487 for each resident, or $4,603 per smoker – in direct health care costs and indirect costs from lost productivity due to illness and premature death.
California already has the second lowest rate of smoking in the nation after Utah. According to state tax records, the number of cigarette packs sold annually in the state has dropped from nearly 1.4 billion in 1999-2000 to an estimated 871 million in 2013-14. Currently, California taxes cigarettes at 87 cents per pack, ranking 33rd among the states.
By increasing tobacco taxes the group hopes to save more than 100,000 lives per year, prevent more than 150,000 young people from ever smoking and save billions in health care dollars on tobacco-related diseases.
The campaign launch coincided with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, an annual nationwide event that raises awareness about the costs and consequences of smoking and connected millions of Americans with the resources that help them quit.
For more information on the Save Lives California campaign, click here.