Colorado group collecting signatures to triple state’s cigarette tax
Steamboat Springs — A Colorado coalition is gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would triple the state’s current cigarette tax, from $0.84 to $2.59 per pack.
Currently, Colorado is ranked 37th in the country in terms of state cigarette tax rates, and supporters of The Campaign for a Healthy Colorado say the new tax would generate $315 million per year, which could be used for disease prevention and treatment, medical and mental health care for veterans, expanding access for youth behavioral health services and other efforts, as well as contributing to current tobacco tax-funded programs that might take a hit if tobacco sales decrease.
The measure would also increase taxes on tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco by 22 percent.
“Tobacco use is the number-one cause of preventable death in Colorado, and cigarette sales actually increased in Colorado in 2015, so we’re concerned our progress is at risk,” said Jodi Radke, regional advocacy director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Radke said the initiative would be the most effective way to reduce smoking, particularly among children.
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“The scientific evidence is clear that raising the cigarette tax is the single most-effective way to reduce smoking,” Radke said. “It prevents kids from ever starting and encourages current smokers to quit.”
A representative from The Campaign for a Healthy Colorado, the driving force behind the effort to place the initiative on the ballot, said that, as of last week, more than 70,000 signatures had been collected.
The group needs 98,000 signatures for the issue to go to voters.
Smoker Friendly International Vice President Mary Szarmach on Wednesday met with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to discuss what the company called an “unfair” initiative.
There are more than 800 independently owned and operated Smoker Friendly stores, including one in Steamboat Springs. The stores sell cigarettes and other tobacco products, while the company lobbies to protect tobacco consumer rights.
At a kickoff event for the campaign in Denver earlier this month, Dr. Debra Dyer, from National Jewish Health, told supporters the initiative was born out of an effort to decrease the burden that lung cancer causes on Coloradoans.
“As a doctor and radiologist, I see many patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer and other illnesses related to tobacco use. We must address the root cause and help people stop,” Dyer said. “Research shows that increasing the cost of cigarettes is an effective way to reduce smoking, and it is time to do this for Colorado, especially for our children.”
Colorado last raised cigarette taxes from $0.20 to $0.84 in 2004. Additional federal taxes of $1.01 are also placed on cigarettes, and local jurisdictions can add their own taxes, as well.
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