(Concord, NH) Today, several leading advocacy organizations announced their support for tobacco prevention programming provided by an increase in the state cigarette tax as outlined in HB 638. The groups favor a $1.00 increase in the cigarette tax, with a portion dedicated to tobacco prevention programming. New Hampshire currently receives over $230 million annually from the cigarette tax and Master Settlement Agreement, but ironically, none of that tobacco-related revenue is spent to keep kids from smoking or to help smokers who want to quit.
New Hampshire allocated $4 million for tobacco prevention programming in the previous budget under the New Hampshire Cancer Plan, but those funds were eliminated by Governor Lynch in 2008. New Hampshire ranks dead last among all states in its funding provided to tobacco prevention.
“There is no greater return on investment than from investing in tobacco use prevention. With so much of our health care costs due to smoking related diseases, there are serious consequences to doing nothing to prevent smoking and to not helping the majority of smokers who want to quit,” said Susan Martore-Baker, Chair for the American Lung Association of New Hampshire.
“Educating New Hampshire moms about the dangers of smoking is vitally important,” said Dr. Becky Ewing, a March of Dimes volunteer. “Smoking during pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of delivering a low birth weight or preterm baby, and secondhand smoke exposure increases a baby’s risk of dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). An increase in the cigarette tax with funds dedicated to tobacco prevention and control could substantially help to give more of our babies a healthier start in life.”
New Hampshire’s cigarette tax is the lowest in the region at $1.33 a pack. Raising cigarette taxes has been proven to be one of the most effective policies to discourage youth from smoking.
“The American Heart Association supports significant increases in cigarette taxes to reduce teen smoking, to save lives and to raise new revenue for vital programs which reduce the burden of smoking related illness,” said Jon Wahrenberger, MD, Advocacy Committee Chairman for the American Heart Association in New Hampshire.
"I am an ex-smoker because I had help when I quit smoking. I had help quitting because I was lucky enough to have good insurance. What about the good citizens of New Hampshire that are not as fortunate? Don’t they deserve the same opportunities? Today we are presenting a scrapbook that represents 500 people who, like me, want the governor to help save lives," said B.J. Allgaier, volunteer for the American Cancer Society.
Tobacco is the leading cause of disease and death in the United States and costs the state of New Hampshire over $560 million every year. As a result, every household in New Hampshire pays $628 in state and federal taxes due to tobacco use. Organizations supporting the tax increase and tobacco prevention funding include the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the March of Dimes.