Senate approves bill that will allow local voters to pass their own tobacco tax

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sacramento, CA – On Thursday, Senator Mike McGuire led the effort to pass legislation to continue to fight the devastating impacts of tobacco use on public health. The legislation, ABX2 10 is part of a historic package of bills approved today in the Senate to fight tobacco use and increase the overall health of California.

“California has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation, currently ranking 35th with a tax of 87 cents – even Texas has higher tobacco taxes than California,” Senator McGuire said. “Nearly 40,000 Californians die every year from smoking and tobacco related diseases. Tobacco use continues to be a public health crisis and we know that the most effective way to reduce smoking, especially among young people, is the price point for a pack of cigarettes.”

ABX2 10 would empower local voters to place locally generated tobacco taxes onto the county ballot, giving voters a choice to invest in robust health, wellness and anti-smoking programs at the neighborhood level.

In California, 40,000 people lose their lives to tobacco-related illness each year and tens of thousands of Californians struggle every day because of tobacco-related illness. While disease caused by tobacco has tremendous impacts on the lives of families and communities across the state, it also has significant financial implications for state and local budgets.

Smoking related diseases cost California roughly $13.29 billion in medical expenses each year – and counties bear the brunt of those costs.

ABX2 10 will allow California counties to join the over 600 local jurisdictions nationwide that have their own cigarette tax rates or fees. These jurisdictions bring in more than $430 million in annual revenue and work effectively to reduce smoking rates, especially among youth, and they decrease smoking-caused death, disease, and costs.

“Giving local voters a choice to pass a tobacco tax is a critical tool in allowing communities to set public health priorities that can better meet the needs of their residents. They know what works best because they are on the ground doing the hard work day in and day out. That said, this bill doesn’t increase taxes, it simply allows counties to put a tobacco tax on the ballot in their area. It’s all about choice,” Senator McGuire said.

It has been 16 years since California last raised its tobacco tax, and in that time, health care costs have increased significantly. This bill allows counties in California to place tobacco taxes independent of the state. It would give counties more local control in reducing the public health effects of tobacco use.

If our goal is to reduce smoking and disease, we know that tobacco taxes work,” Senator McGuire said. “For every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, there is a 4 percent reduction in overall cigarette consumption and a 6.5 percent reduction in youth consumption. This is one of the reasons why this bill is critical – young people.”

Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) has a long history of strengthening local regulations in the fight against tobacco-related illnesses. As a Healdsburg City Councilmember, McGuire was instrumental in ushering local ordinances banning smoking in public parks – a fight he brought to a larger stage when he was a Sonoma County Supervisor. As a Supervisor, McGuire co-chaired the effort that brought sweeping changes and strengthened the County’s tobacco-related laws.