January 17, 2013

State urged to boost cigarette tax

Anti-tobacco lobbyists call for a $1.50-a-pack increase and decry $1.8 million in cuts to preventive programs.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

In this 2007 file photo, Omaha resident Charlie Waters has a cigarette. The American Lung Association of the Northeast is calling for a $1.50-per-pack increase in the cigarette excise tax in Maine to encourage smokers to quit and deter others from picking up the unhealthy habit. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

"Every time we raise the tax, we see a corresponding decrease in the smoking rate," Sanborn said. "And every dollar we spend on prevention saves us $7 down the road on treatment for illness."

Sanborn said she is concerned that the state has increasingly used the Fund for a Healthy Maine for purposes other than public health and prevention programs.

"These programs pay for themselves," she said. "Reducing spending on prevention efforts is unwise because it leads to increased health-care costs in the future."

The state's anti-smoking spending from the Fund for a Healthy Maine dropped from $9.3 million in fiscal 2011-12 to $7.5 million this year, according to the association.

In that period, Maine lawmakers more than doubled the amount of the fund that was used to cover Medicaid costs -- from $8 million in fiscal 2011-12 to $18 million in 2012-13, according to the Legislature's Office of Fiscal and Program Review.

The governor's proposed budget for the next two fiscal years would eliminate funding for programs that help seniors buy medicine; gut property-tax relief; and suspend revenue sharing with cities and towns.

The lung association is reviewing the proposal to determine the potential impact on anti-smoking spending, Miller said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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