Let’s Tackle the Cost of Tobacco in California


These days everyone is aware of the health dangers of smoking, but how much do we really think about what it costs?  Tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of death and tobacco-related healthcare costs in the US total an astronomical $289 billion.

Society pays infographic

Source: American Cancer Society (2015)

With this overwhelming cost, what can we do to reduce both the physical and monetary harm that accompany smoking?  Studies have suggested that increased taxes can be especially effective in reducing smoking initiation rates among youth preventing their development into lifelong smokers and also reduce consumption and increase cessation among existing smokers.  Plus, revenue raised through taxes can help pay for needed health care.

California Senate Bill 591 (CA SB591) would increase California state taxes on tobacco packs by $2, bringing taxes on a pack of cigarettes from $0.87 to $2.87.  The current tax rate of $0.87 was set in 1998 and has not been raised since.  Further, in rank-ordering states by cigarette tax value from highest to lowest, California only ranks 32nd.  In addition to raising the dollar value of the tax, the bill allocates the tax revenues to help the tobacco purchasers most affected by the tax by paying the healthcare costs of tobacco-related illness and supporting tobacco prevention and education programs.

Smokers and non-smokers alike can agree that we need to address the human and healthcare system costs of smoking.  Let’s make a start by getting CA SB591 passed.  Contact your California assemblyman and urge their support today!



One Response to “Let’s Tackle the Cost of Tobacco in California”

  1. nolanm2015 Says:

    Thanks for the post… I am personally for this bill. Economics and experience has shown that even with a highly addictive product like cigarettes, there is an elasticity of demand whereby higher prices drive lower demand. However, I believe the Senate should also consider two related topics. First, as tobacco prices increase in CA, the amount of black-market or cross-state-border tobacco purchasing will also increase… Are there any accompanying measures that could be included in the bill to reduce this? Also, there is a controversial opinion piece in the NY Times about the benefits of increasing cigarette taxes while simultaneously reducing taxes on “harm reduction” products such as e-cigarettes and snus. I am leery of this claim, but would like to see some funding of related studies to ensure data-driven decision-making before this argument gains any traction.


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