Minnesota Tobacco Tax Increase is Big Win for Kids and Health

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

WASHINGTON, DC — It is terrific news for Minnesota’s kids and health that the Legislature has voted to increase the state cigarette tax by $1.60 per pack and also increase the tax on other tobacco products. The tobacco tax increase is truly a win-win-win solution for Minnesota — a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will help to balance the state budget and fund essential programs, and a political win that polls show is popular with voters. We look forward to Governor Mark Dayton signing this legislation into law.
We applaud Governor Dayton and legislative leaders for siding with kids over the tobacco industry by supporting the tobacco tax increase. We also congratulate the Raise It for Health Coalition that has fought tirelessly to reduce tobacco use and save lives in Minnesota.
The evidence is clear that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 6.5 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. Minnesota can expect the $1.60 cigarette tax increase will:

  • Prevent more than 47,700 Minnesota kids from becoming smokers
  • Spur more than 36,600 current adult smokers to quit
  • Save more than 25,700 Minnesota residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths
  • Save more than $1.65 billion in future health care costs.

The state projects that the $1.60 cigarette tax increase and increased taxes on other tobacco products will raise $434 million in new revenue over the next two years (fiscal years 2014-15).
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Minnesota, claiming 5,500 lives each year and costing the state $2 billion annually in health care bills. While Minnesota has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 18 percent of high school students still smoke and 6,800 more kids become regular smokers every year.
With Minnesota’s increase to $2.83 per pack, the average state cigarette tax will be $1.51 per pack. We call on states across the nation to significantly increase the tobacco tax to reduce tobacco use and its devastating health and financial toll.

Smoking banned on Bismarck’s playgrounds

BISMARCK, N.D. – In a 5-0 vote on Thursday, the Bismarck Park Board took swift action to ban smoking on the 44 playgrounds and play areas it manages. People must step 20 feet away from the playground before they light up.
Alecia Uhde, chairwoman of the Go! Bismarck Mandan coalition, said she made the request as part of the group’s goal to improve the health, fitness and quality of life for people.
“One of those (goals) was to increase the number of tobacco-free designated areas for children, specifically outdoors,” she said. “Young children are impressible. … Secondhand smoke, even in outdoor settings, is a true health hazard and harms everyone.”
Uhde said discarded tobacco products in play areas may be ingested by toddlers.
“I believe we set an example for the children of this community,” park board President Mike Schwartz said after the meeting.
Bismarck Parks and Recreation Executive Director Randy Bina said the smoking ban will create a better awareness of healthy lifestyles and examples for children.
“All we’re saying is, if someone does want to smoke, just step away 20 feet from the playground and just don’t smoke inside the playground,” he said.
Bina said Go! Bismarck Mandan will help the park district pay for new signs explaining the tobacco bans in playgrounds. He didn’t think there would be an enforcement issue.
“This policy is dependent upon people self-policing the playgrounds. We need the cooperation of all of the users that if they see someone smoking, make the individual aware of the policy and ask them to move 20 feet away from the playground,” he said.
Two proposals to further limit tobacco use in Mandan parks failed on Monday. Tobacco use is already barred at several park locations and events throughout the Mandan park system.
In separate action, the Bismarck Park Board:

  • Agreed to advertise for bids for the Hoge Island boat ramp. It also entered into an agreement with the state Game and Fish Department to replace the ramp.
  • Received a final facilities report from JLG Architects that gave them several options for replacing Hillside Pool and making it a year-round meeting facility, improving the World Memorial Building and adding at least one more sheet of ice for hockey programs. Bina said the options will be discussed in the 2014 budgeting process this summer. For more information about the proposals, visithttp://bisparks.org.
  • Awarded Northwest Contracting the bid for the Schaumberg Arena work to remove its sand base floor and replace it with concrete, and install new refrigeration piping, ceiling work and an overhead door on the east side. The low bid is $587,200. The project will be finished by Oct. 1, Bina said.


New tobacco limits fail in Mandan parks

Two attempts to tighten tobacco limits in Mandan’s park system failed Monday. In the end, the Mandan Park Board voted to support keeping several locations where tobacco is already banned by park staff.
The Go! Bismarck Mandan Coalition in April proposed that tobacco use be banned in all playgrounds in the district.
Based on survey results and comments, Parks and Recreation Director Cole Higlin proposed prohibiting tobacco use everywhere but in parking lots and the golf courses on Mandan park property.
“I do not like people to smoke near parks because I like to play and want everyone to be safe,” said 10-year-old Zara Laber, a park user.
Her mother, Shawna Laber, said allowing smoking where children gather is “not positive role modeling for anyone under (age) 18 … and a fire safety (issue).” She said smokeless tobacco is unsanitary near children.
Jack Jones of the Mandan Softball Association said the adults already police themselves in ball games.
“If golf is left out this, I would appreciate if the softball complex was as well,” he said. “It is against (American Softball Association) rules to smoke while playing. … Occasionally, there are players between innings and between games that will step out of the dugout, walk down a ways and have a cigarette. In 25 years, I’ve never seen anybody smoke in the bleachers.”
Vice Park Board President Tracy Porter made a motion to ban smoking in parks and shelters, soccer field at Dacotah Centennial and its dog park. The motion died for a lack of a second.
Park board member Kevin Allan made a motion that prohibited tobacco use on all park district properties, except for the golf courses and parking lots.
“Common sense prevails. If it’s not broke don’t fix it,” said Park Board President Jason Arenz. Allan’s motion failed in a 4-1 vote. Allan was the only park board member to vote yes.
Arenz briefly stepped down as president so he could make a motion endorse the parks policy, which now bans tobacco at youth baseball, Dacotah Centennial Park and its seating, Memorial Ballpark and the Raging Rivers. All five park board members approved it.
Park board member Wanda Knoll said she’d like to revisit tobacco policy in four months and see if there is an issue. Higlin said there had been no complaints about current tobacco policy.

Parks ponder playground tobacco ban

Mandan and Bismarck park systems will consider making their green space smoke-free next week.
The Mandan Park Board, which surveyed its park users, will revisit the issue at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Both park entities were approached by the Go! Bismarck-Mandan Coalition to remove tobacco from the play areas.
The group will make its pitch to the Bismarck Park Board at its 5:15 p.m. Thursday meeting at the City/County Building.
A Mandan park committee recommendation favors banning smoking everywhere but parking lots and the golf course, Mandan Parks and Recreation Director Cole Higlin said Friday. The Mandan Park Board will make the final decision on what tobacco limits to set.
Higlin said tobacco use is already prohibited at most Mandan park facilities and there are signs posted. He said the new proposal also will keep it off park trails, adult softball areas and the Dacotah Centennial Park area.
He doesn’t expect expansion will cause a bigger maintenance issue for staff.
“It probably causes no more or less littering,” he said. “Receptacles could be added (for the cigarette butts).”
Higlin said 292 park system users responded to a survey about a tobacco ban for facilities, either online or using one that had been sent to them by email.
Nearly 44 percent said second-hand smoke at outdoor park facilities bothered them a lot. Twenty percent said it bothered them a little and 29.2 percent said it didn’t bother them at all.
Those polled also were asked if they were bothered by smokeless or spit tobacco. Of the responders, 26.6 percent said it bothered them a lot, 37.2 percent said it bothered them a little and 36.2 percent they weren’t bothered.
Of the Mandan park system users polled, 61 percent favored banning it at the golf courses and 38 percent said they were opposed. Nearly 60 percent wanted it banned on trails and 40 percent were against barring tobacco on trails.
About 80 percent said they wanted tobacco use banned on athletic fields and playgrounds. Eighty-one percent wanted its use banned at concession areas and 67 percent wanted tobacco off Dacotah Centennial Park, according to the Mandan poll.
Higlin said common sense would come into play, and people would follow the rules without staff intervention to enforce it.
“We hope this serves as a possible message to the youth,” said Higlin.
“Go! Bismarck-Mandan is asking us to do this in the playgrounds only,” said Bismarck Park Board member Wayne Munson. “Personally, I favor that idea.”
He said there could be issues with enforcement.
Bismarck Parks and Recreation Executive Director Randy Bina said the proposal sounds reasonable.
He doesn’t expect the park district will incur many extra costs for its 44 playgrounds. Go! Bismarck-Mandan has offered to pay for stickers for both park entities.
“Most park users are respectful of others (in their tobacco use),” he said.
Bina said, if approved, the park district might model the playground policy after the state smoking ban for buildings and keep tobacco use 20 feet away from a playground.

House rejects tobacco prevention budget

A narrow House majority voted down the budget for the North Dakota Center For Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy on Thursday.
“We’ll get that back and get that through tomorrow (Friday),” said Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo.
The House voted against Senate Bill 2024 Thursday morning by a 46-47 vote. A motion to reconsider the bill during the chamber’s afternoon floor session also failed.
SB2024 has a total budget of $15.8 million and calls for three new full-time employees.
Carlson said House members should have given it further review.
“Tomorrow it’ll come back,” Carlson said. “I think the biggest sticking point was the three new FTEs.”
Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, admitted being caught off-guard by the vote Thursday.
“There’s just some people that have had a hard time accepting the vote of the people on Measure 3,” Nelson said.
The Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy was created through Measure 3, which got 54 percent of the vote in the 2008 general election. The agency is constitutionally mandated and is required to be funded.
Measure 3 created an advisory board that shaped policy for a statewide tobacco prevention program. The program is funded through the settlement of a 1998 multistate lawsuit against the country’s largest tobacco companies.
“There’s people that, every time it comes up, no matter what it is, they’ll vote no without even listening,” Nelson said.
He put the normal number of votes against bills relating to the agency at 25-30. “Never in God’s world would I’d think there’d be a majority,” he said.
Rep. Blair Thoreson, R-Fargo, said he thought lawmakers were trying to send a message. Thoreson had voted against SB2024 on Thursday morning but voted in favor of reconsideration.
“Part of my problem is there is a lot of money being spent on things such as advertising,” he said.
Thoreson has sponsored two smoking-related bills during the session. House Bill 1253, which passed, dealt with getting proper no-smoking signs
to comply with the state’s public smoking ban.
House Concurrent Resolution 3033, which failed, called for an interim study on alternatives to prevent smoking.
Jeanne Prom, executive director of the Center For Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, said she was perplexed by the message the House was sending.
“It was in direct conflict with the voice of the people,” Prom said.
If there’s a philosophical issue with the concept of a state tobacco prevention agency, the state shouldn’t have been involved in the original tobacco lawsuit, she said.
“Because we’ve accepted the money, we’ve accepted that responsibility,” Prom said. “It’s time to maintain the funding of this program and move on.”

How Obama’s tobacco tax would drive down smoking rates

By Sarah Kliff, Washington Post
President Obama’s proposal to nearly double the federal tobacco tax would help fund a universal pre-K program. And, if history is any guide, it would likely have a marked impact on driving down the country’s smoking rates.
“Increasing the price of tobacco is the single most effective way to discourage kids from smoking,” CDC director Tom Frieden told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “We estimate this would result in at least 230,000 fewer kids smoking than would have smoked if the tobacco tax does not go into effect.”
Researchers have conducted over 100 studies that have “clearly and consistently demonstrated that higher cigarette and other tobacco product prices reduce tobacco use,” Frank Chaloupka, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, writes. While tobacco is an addictive substance, demand tends to be surprisingly elastic: Price increases have reliably shown to decrease cigarette purchases.
The Congressional Budget Office recently looked at what would happen if the country implemented a 50-cent per pack tax on cigarettes. It estimates, given the research we have on tobacco taxes, that the price increase would lead to 1.4 million fewer smokers by 2021.
Many of those gains would be concentrated among younger Americans, who would take up smoking at lower rates:
A few years after the hypothetical tax increase took effect, the number of 12- to 17-year-olds who smoked cigarettes would be about 5 percent lower than it would be otherwise, the number of 18-year-old smokers would be 4.5 percent lower, the number of 19- to 39-year-old smokers would be almost 4 percent lower, and the number of smokers age 40 or older would be about 1.5 percent lower.
The CBO data suggests that a cigarette tax is more successful at reducing tobacco use among shorter-term smokers, vs. older Americans who may have been smokers for a longer period of time.
Even among those who don’t fully quit, tobacco taxes do appear to effect the intensity of smoking. A 2012 study in the journal Tobacco Control interviewed thousands of smokers over a time period where states increased their tobacco taxes. It found that the most intense smokers — those who smoked 40 or more cigarettes per day — saw the steepest decline in cigarette consumption.
“The dramatic reductions in daily smoking might be driven,at least in part, by heavier smokers’ desire to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke per day,” lead study author Patricia A Cavazos-Rehg writes. “This could be because of their comorbid health problems and/or advice from influential persons (eg, doctors/friends/family) to try to quit and/or reduce smoking.”