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Health Groups Launch Ad Campaign Supporting 93-Cent Increase in SC Cigarette Tax

Monday, March 17, 2008 General News J E 4
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Plan Would Reduce Smoking, Help Balance Budget and Fund Health Needs



COLUMBIA, S.C., March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A coalition of public health organizations has launched a newspaper and radio advertising campaign in support of increasing South Carolina's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax by 93 cents per pack to reduce smoking and generate more than $220 million in new revenue to help balance the budget and fund vital health care programs.



Health advocates are urging South Carolina lawmakers to support a significant increase in the cigarette tax because it is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among children. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have increased cigarette taxes since January 1, 2002, some more than once, bringing the average state cigarette tax to $1.11 a pack. South Carolina's current cigarette tax is only 7 cents per pack, ranking it lowest in the nation.



According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, South Carolina can expect a 93-cent increase in the state cigarette tax to:



-- Generate more than $220 million in new revenue to help balance the budget and fund tobacco prevention, cancer control and other vital health programs.



-- Prevent more than 66,000 South Carolina kids from becoming smokers.



-- Produce more than $1.4 billion in long-term health care savings.



-- Save more than 30,000 South Carolina residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths.



-- Spur more than 34,000 current adult smokers to quit for good.



The radio ad campaign is sponsored by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. To listen to the ad, go to http://tobaccofreekids.org/campaign/southcarolina2008/. The print ad campaign is sponsored by the American Heart Association.



The South Carolina Senate will soon consider H.3567 which increases the cigarette tax by 45 cents and dedicates $5 million to tobacco prevention. Health advocates say that a 45-cent increase is the absolute minimum that should be considered, and urge legislators to pass an even higher increase.



"By increasing the cigarette tax to fund tobacco prevention and other vital health initiatives, South Carolina will achieve significant health and economic benefits that our residents need and deserve," said Renee Martin, Executive Director of the South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative. "We urge our leaders to support this worthwhile legislation, which will prevent kids from smoking, improve health in our state and save taxpayers money by reducing smoking-caused health care costs."



Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In South Carolina, tobacco claims more than 5,900 lives each year and costs the state $1.09 billion annually in health care bills, including $393 million in Medicaid payments alone. Currently, 22.3 percent of South Carolina adults smoke. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $578 every year on every South Carolina household. Just over 19 percent of South Carolina high school students smoke, and 7,300 more kids become smokers every year.



SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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