CCMH official speaks on cigarette tax - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

CCMH official speaks on cigarette tax

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A bill that would more than double the tax on cigarettes in Oklahoma is another step closer to becoming law.

A house committee approved a measure that would increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per-pack on Monday. The current tax is a $1.03. The bill was introduced to help overcome Oklahoma's nearly $900 million budget shortfall. Governor Mary Fallin said the increase will raise almost $258 million, which could be used to better our state's healthcare.

As legislators debate the increase in cigarette taxes, Program Manager for the Healthy Living Program at Comanche County Memorial Hospital Sandy Foster said it shouldn't even be an issue.

"Smoking kills. It's damaging, it takes your life and along the way the health effects that come about because of tobacco use are devastating,” Foster said. “They're devastating financially and emotionally"

Foster said raising the tax on cigarettes would have the biggest impact on our children.

"Approximately a 15.6% reduction in the youth smoking rate, that's a huge number of kids that won't smoke,” Foster said. “We're also looking about 28,000 kids today who won’t become addicted to tobacco or cigarettes."

Foster said those numbers are based on national statistics and projections. She said it would also drive about 5,000 young adult smokers and almost 30,000 adult smokers to quit, which would be huge for Oklahoma.

There were a lot of comments on the issue on our 7NEWS Facebook page about the issue. Those responses ranged from wanting to raise the tax higher than the proposed $1.50, to taxing alcohol instead of cigarettes, to finding a tax that hits everyone not just smokers.

Several comments were very critical of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, who in her state of the state address last week again criticized smoking, asking the legislature to again consider increasing the cigarette tax to benefit our state's healthcare.

"Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death in Oklahoma. It costs our state $1.62 billion in healthcare costs."

The idea behind the cigarette tax is to not only prevent those health care costs but also to raise money for health care through the tax, which Foster said is a huge necessity right now.

"We're struggling. We are struggling in the state. When things are tight, you have to start giving up certain things and we want to make sure we are not giving up those things our citizens deserve, which is good health care,” Foster said.

The bill advances to the full Oklahoma House of Representatives. If it passes there it will then head to the State Senate. Governor Mary Fallin must also give her approval, signing the bill into law.

If the tax increase does become law, it will go into effect September 1st. Because it's a tax increase, it needs at least 75% of the vote in both the House and Senate to pass.

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