The economic outlook for Connecticut continues to be bleak. As budget negotiations heat up, the threat of billions of dollars in deficit hangs like a cloud over Hartford and the rest of the state.
Our leaders need to be looking at every available option—and one presented last week by members of my organization and others, to raise the tax on cigarettes by 95 cents is one that needs to be taken seriously.
By raising the tax on cigarettes, lawmakers will deliver a financial one, two punch—immediately delivering a shot of much needed revenue into the state’s coffers, as well as providing reductions in long term spending on smoking related health care costs. The move has the additional benefit of saving lives—by prompting current smokers to quit and to keep young people from picking up the habit.
Every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, even while reducing smoking.
Financial progressions are that the addition of a 95 cents tax will increase revenue in the state by tens of millions of dollars. That’s money that can help dig us out of the financial mess we find ourselves in, and help to fund critical programs for residents—-including smoking cessation programs to help even more people quit.
Then there are the projected savings, both long and short term. Healthcare costs make up a significant percentage of our state budget—-currently, the state of Connecticut spends 1.63 billion dollars a year on smoking related health issues. Smoking costs the state Medicaid system 430 million dollars each year.
With fewer people lighting up, our state will be healthier and the amount of money we need to spend to treat smoking related diseases will decrease.
And, most importantly, by raising the tax on cigarettes, the number of people smoking will decline.
Raising taxes on cigarettes is the single most effective way to curb smoking. The equation is simple—when cigarettes cost more, people smoke less—significantly less. And that will save lives. More than 4,000 of our Connecticut neighbors die each year due to smoking.
This proposal makes sense, both for the health of our residents and the financial health of our state—in both the short term and the long term.
We strongly encourage lawmakers to enact a 95 cents tax on cigarettes—-for the health of Connecticut residents and Connecticut’s fiscal future.
John Bailey is the Director of Government Relations for the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association in Connecticut.