Letter: ‘Sin tax’ hike would save livesMany of our state legislators support an increase in the state sales tax on tobacco.
By: Karen Main, Red Wing, The Republican Eagle
To the Editor:
Many of our state legislators support an increase in the state sales tax on tobacco.
A lot of people refer to this as a “sin tax” and only see it as a way to put more revenue into the state’s general fund. They don’t realize that increasing the price of tobacco through a sales tax increase will also make Minnesota healthier.
A tobacco tax increase will save lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America. In Minnesota, tobacco use causes over 5,500 deaths every year.
Research has proven that raising cigarette prices, through taxes or other methods, increases the quit rate among adult smokers and is especially effective in discouraging young people from ever starting to smoke.
A tobacco tax increase will help to reduce long-term health care costs. Treating disease caused by tobacco use contributes to the ever-increasing cost of care. This burdens our state with an estimated $2.06 billion in health care expenditures annually.
Experience from other states has shown that even though many smokers will decide to quit, overall revenue from the tobacco tax will increase. It would be very appropriate if some of the revenue from an increased tobacco tax would be invested in state health programs, such as the Statewide Health Improvement Program. This would further increase the health benefits for our state.
Yes, a tobacco tax increase would raise revenue, but more important, it would save lives and help to reduce long-term health care costs. This would be a “win-win-win” for Minnesota.
Karen Main is director of the Goodhue County Public Health Service.