Tobacco tax on the horizon

 Uncategorized
Nov 292004
 
Authors: Ryan RiggenBy Ryan Riggen

Tobacco users will soon have to pull more money out of their pockets to purchase tobacco products. Amendment 35 passed with over 60 percent of the vote on Nov. 2.

Cigarette taxes will increase from 20 to 64 cents, or 320 percent, beginning in January 2005. Taxes on other tobacco products, such as cigars and chewing tobacco, will double, rising from 20 percent to 40 percent of the product's price.

According to Citizens for a Healthier Colorado, a pro-Amendment 35 organization, approximately $175 million per year will be generated in new revenue.

"I don't mind the new tax," said Jeff Richardson, a smoker and recent CSU graduate. "It's not that much more to pay, especially compared to other states."

The money will be used to expand Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus; provide comprehensive primary care through community health centers and other clinics serving a high portion of uninsured and medically indigent; fund tobacco education, prevention and cessation programs; help prevention and early detection and treatment of cancer; and to increase the budget in the general fund, old-age pension fund and municipal and county governments for health-related expenses.

According to the State of Colorado Analysis of the 2004 Ballot Proposals, taxes for one-pack-a-day smokers will increase by $234 each year. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Colorado, killing 4,200 Coloradans each year. Colorado is 50th among the states in the level of cigarette taxes.

"I think it is a good thing," said Jason Massey, a senior computer science major and nonsmoker. "I think we are finally catching up with the rest of the country."

This tax increase on tobacco products is the first in Colorado since 1986. The national average cigarette tax is 91 cents per pack.

"I don't like the tax at all," said Lee Bruner, a junior at Front Range Community College and a smoker. "I pay enough taxes."

According to Colorado Public Interest Research Group, Colorado joins Montana and Oklahoma as one of the three states that passed a tobacco tax increase on Nov. 2.

Where money is going

* $80.5 million (46 percent) to expand the Child Health Plan Plus and Medicaid

* $33.25 million (19 percent) to provide comprehensive primary care through community health centers and other clinics serving a high portion of uninsured and medically indigent

* $28 million (16 percent) for tobacco education, prevention and cessation programs

* $28 million (16 percent) for prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases

* $5.25 million (3 percent) to the general fund, old age pension fund and municipal and county governments for health related expenses

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