A new poll released today finds that 63 percent of Ohio voters support raising the cigarette tax by $1 per pack to help fund programs to reduce tobacco use. Just 35 percent of voters oppose increasing the cigarette tax. The poll finds voters from across the state and across virtually every demographic group support increasing the cigarette tax to help fund tobacco prevention programs.
Support for increasing the tax comes from a broad-based coalition of voters, including 61 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of unaffiliated voters. Among self-identified fiscal conservatives, 62 percent support increasing the cigarette tax.
In addition to supporting increasing the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, the survey also found that among Ohio voters:
• 79 percent say if the state does raise the tobacco tax, it is important to dedicate part of the revenue to funding tobacco prevention programs
• 69 percent support dedicating $50 million of the state's tobacco tax revenue to tobacco prevention programs, which would restore cuts made to tobacco prevention in recent years
• 67 percent support increasing the tax on other tobacco products so those products are taxed at the same rate as cigarettes
• When given a choice, voters – by a more than two-to-one margin – support a $1 increase in the cigarette tax with part of the revenue dedicated to tobacco prevention (56 percent) over a smaller tax increase with none of the money dedicated to the tobacco prevention program (26 percent)
Ohio is currently considering increasing the tobacco tax as part of a proposal to reduce income taxes in the state.
The poll found that 72 percent of voters favor efforts to reduce the income tax rate, with 65 percent supporting a tobacco tax increase to pay for it. Raising the tobacco tax to pay for income tax reductions has greater support among voters than two other options presented – 43 percent supported increasing taxes on oil and natural gas drilling, known as fracking, and 39 percent favored increasing the Commercial Activities Tax.
"Now is the time for our leaders to listen to the large majority of Ohio voters who want to raise the cigarette tax by $1 to help reduce smoking. These results show that, regardless of party, voters across Ohio understand raising the tax is a smart way to help raise needed revenue and protect our kids from tobacco addiction," said Beverly J. May, Ohio Director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The statewide survey of 800 general election voters was released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The poll was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Ohio, claiming 17,700 lives each year and costing the state $5.6 billion annually in health care bills. In Ohio, 23.3 percent of adults and 21.1 percent of high school students smoke, which are both higher than the national rates. According to the latest U.S. Surgeon General's report, 259,000 Ohio kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease unless current trends are reversed.
Ohio's current cigarette tax is $1.25 per pack, which ranks 29th in the nation and is below the state average of $1.53 per pack. Increasing the cigarette tax by $1 per pack would raise more than $342 million in new revenue each year, and equalizing the tax rate on all other tobacco products would bring in an additional $95 million in annual new revenue.
A $1 cigarette tax increase would also:
• Prevent 75,100 Ohio kids from becoming smokers.
• Save 45,300 state residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths.
• Save almost $3 billion in long-term tobacco-related health care costs.
These health benefits would be even greater if some portion of the tax is used to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which are underfunded in Ohio, and if the tax rate on all other tobacco products is equalized. A significant increase in the tax rate on other tobacco products will generate significant benefits. The Surgeon General stated in a 2012 report, "higher taxes on smokeless tobacco...are effective in reducing the use of smokeless tobacco among adolescent males."
Full poll results are available at: http://tfk.org/press_office/2014/ohio_poll