Florida, Hawaii and Mississippi Celebrate Tobacco Tax Victories

Six states have increased taxes in 2009; North Carolina, Wisconsin Approve Statewide Smoke-Free Laws

    • May 15, 2009

Increases in cigarette taxes save lives and health care dollars. Danny McGoldrick, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, answers five questions about tobacco control and public health.
Increases in cigarette taxes save lives and health care dollars. Danny McGoldrick, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, answers five questions about tobacco control and public health.

Increases in cigarette taxes save lives and health care dollars. Danny McGoldrick, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, answers five questions about tobacco control and public health.

In recent days, policy-makers in Florida, Hawaii and Mississippi have enacted into law tax increases for cigarettes and other tobacco products, protecting kids and taxpayers in those states from the devastating toll of tobacco use. Once these cigarette tax increases have taken effect, the average state cigarette tax will be $1.27 per pack and the average federal-state cigarette tax will be $2.27 per pack. In support of these state efforts, RWJF funded public opinion polls on attitudes toward tobacco tax increases, public education media campaigns as well as strategic and technical assistance provided through its grantee, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 

In Hawaii, the Legislature has approved and Gov. Linda Lingle has signed a 60-cent increase to the cigarette tax, bringing the total cigarette tax to $2.60 per pack beginning July 1. The state cigarette tax will further increase by 20 cents per pack annually in July 2010 and July 2011, reaching a total of $3 per pack. The Hawaii Legislature also voted to override the governor’s veto of legislation to also increase the tax on most other tobacco products.

The Mississippi Legislature has approved a 50-cent increase in its cigarette tax, bringing the total cigarette tax to 68 cents per pack. Gov. Haley Barbour signed this into law on May 13. This is the first increase in the Mississippi cigarette tax since 1985. 

The Florida Legislature has approved a $1 cigarette tax increase as part of the state budget, which is now before Gov. Charlie Crist for his signature. The $1 cigarette tax increase, which would be the first such increase since 1990, would bring the cigarette tax in Florida to $1.34 per pack. The Florida Legislature also voted to increase the tax on most other tobacco products.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that the cigarette tax increases in Florida, Hawaii and Mississippi combined will:

  • Prevent 186,800 kids from becoming smokers
  • Spur 112,600 adult smokers to quit
  • Prevent 89,400 premature smoking-caused deaths
  • Save $4.3 billion in long-term health care costs
  • Raise more than $740 million a year in revenue.

North Carolina, Wisconsin Approve Statewide Smoke-Free Laws
NC becomes first traditional tobacco-growing state to make all restaurants and bars smoke-free

Also last week, policy-makers in North Carolina and Wisconsin delivered historic victories for health and the public’s right to breathe clean air when they approved strong smoke-free legislation to make all restaurants and bars smoke-free. With the addition of North Carolina and Wisconsin, a total of 27 states will have strong smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars—protecting nearly 59 percent of Americans from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke.  In Wisconsin and North Carolina, RWJF funded educational direct mail campaigns, public opinion polling, and strategic and technical assistance facilitated through Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

North Carolina became the first traditional tobacco-growing state to approve such legislation, which would take effect January 2, 2010. It is a truly groundbreaking step for a tobacco-growing state like North Carolina to recognize the devastating toll of tobacco use and secondhand smoke and take decisive action to protect public health.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers approved legislation that would make almost all workplaces, including all restaurants and bars, smoke-free. Gov. Jim Doyle has advocated for smoke-free legislation and is expected to sign the bill, which would take effect July 5, 2010.