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Health Groups Welcome Gov. Kasich's Concern about Tobacco Use, but Budget Falls Short of Strong Action Needed to Protect Kids and Save Lives in Ohio

Groups urge tobacco tax increase of $1.50, more funding for tobacco prevention

COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 11, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Lung Association:

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids logo

As organizations committed to reducing tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death in Ohio, we welcome Gov. John Kasich's concern about this important public health issue. However, we are disappointed that his mid-biennium budget proposal falls far short of the strong action needed to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and reduce tobacco's terrible health and financial toll on Ohio.

We urge the Governor and Legislature to immediately increase Ohio's tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack and to dedicate a portion of the revenue to programs that are proven to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The tobacco tax increase should also still include the immediate equalization of tax rates on non-cigarette forms of tobacco, such as cigars, hookah and spit tobacco, which often come in candy flavors and brightly colored packaging which appeal to children. Ohio must take strong action to prevent youth use of all forms of tobacco.

Tobacco tax increases are a highly effective means of reducing smoking and other tobacco use, but the increase must be large enough to have the desired public health impact. The proposal to increase the cigarette tax over a two year period, from $1.25 to $1.85 per pack, would have little to no effect on smoking rates and would be easily undercut by tobacco industry discounting schemes, such as coupons, buy one get one free deals, and temporary price cuts. We are pleased that the proposal equalizes the tax on all other tobacco products, but to impact public health, this tax should also be immediately enacted and not phased-in over a two-year period.

The Governor has taken a positive step forward by proposing to allocate $26.9 million from the Master Settlement Agreement to the Ohio Department of Health for tobacco prevention and cessation programs over a five year span. However, this amount still falls well short of the

$132 million a year recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs should be restored at least to the level of $50 million a year that Ohio was providing before funding was severely cut in Fiscal 2009.

Ohio was making significant progress in reducing tobacco use until funding for its tobacco prevention program was cut. In recent years, this progress has stalled and today Ohio has the 10th highest smoking rate in the country with 23.3 percent of adults smoking. The high school smoking rate is also higher than the nation as a whole at 21.1 percent. As a result, tobacco takes a huge health and financial toll on Ohio, claiming 17,700 lives each year and costing the state $5.6 billion annually in health care bills. Families and businesses alike pay a heavy price.

Governor Kasich has started an important conversation about the best way for Ohio to reduce tobacco use and its devastating toll. To have a significant impact, we urge the Governor and Legislature to raise the tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack, equalize tax rates on all tobacco products to the corresponding amount immediately instead of a two-year phased-in period, and to also increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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