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Taxing cigarettes

I am writing to express my strong support for increasing the tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack. Multiple current bills in the Legislature propose increasing it by this amount.

Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. A significant increase in the tobacco tax is an effective strategy in preventing and reducing smoking amongst our youth.

The 2014 Surgeon General’s report stated, “The evidence is sufficient to conclude that increases in the prices of tobacco products, including those resulting from excise tax increases, prevent initiation of tobacco use, promote cessation, and reduce the prevalence and intensity of tobacco use among youth and adults.”

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the general consensus is that for every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes, the number of kids who smoke falls by 6 or 7 percent.

It’s been 17 years since Nebraska last increased its cigarette tax. As someone who works in the medical field, I’ve seen firsthand the toll tobacco use can take – both in terms of health and finances.

I urge the Legislature to support increasing the tobacco tax by a $1.50. If an amount lower is passed, I would urge that it is at least a $1-per-pack increase so public health gains can be achieved through reduction in smoking. Increasing the tobacco tax by this amount or higher is sound fiscal policy that will save lives and save health care costs.

Sara Bills, Lincoln

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