Nebraskans Meet with Lawmakers to Encourage Support for Cigarette Tax Increase

Over 100 volunteers and advocates from all over the state gathered together at the Nebraska State Capitol today in support of increasing taxes on tobacco products. Representatives from diverse groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Nebraska Medical Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, AARP, and numerous others gathered for a breakfast at the Cornhusker Hotel before moving on to the Capitol to meet with their respective Senators.

“This bill (LB 436) is going to save so many lives,” commented Marilyn Wise, an American Cancer Society volunteer from Fremont.  “A raise in this tax may make people stop and think ‘Do I really want to spend the money on something that’s not good for me’.  That’s the message I want to get across to my senator.”

In Nebraska, 2,200 kids under 18 become new daily smokers each year while the same amount of adults die prematurely each year in Nebraska from smoking.  In addition, tobacco use costs Nebraska $537 million in health care bills each year.  Higher cigarette taxes are one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking among both youth and adults and new revenue created by the increase would go to fund health programs including tobacco prevention and cessation in addition to helping with the state budget deficit.

“In addition to raising over one hundred million new dollars annually, the tobacco tax increase called for in LB 436 will save thousands of lives by helping smokers quit and keeping our young people from starting an addiction to nicotine,” commented David Holmquist, Director of State Legislative Government Relations for the American Cancer Society.  “In addition to saving lives and reducing suffering from tobacco use, funding from the bill will help medical providers continue seeing patients who may be most in need of their services.”

Groups such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids support higher tobacco taxes because it is a proven solution to improve public health.  Research has shown that every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, even while reducing smoking.  In a recent poll, 73 percent of Nebraska voters surveyed support raising the tobacco tax by $1.35 per pack.