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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Powerful health groups renew push to raise Florida's cigarette tax



Four powerful health organizations are putting their collective muscle behind an effort to increase the state’s cigarette tax for the first time in seven years.

The coalition, which includes the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association in Florida and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, wants to see the tax increased by $1 per pack in 2016, its leaders announced Thursday.

“Increases in tobacco excise taxes have proven highly effective in reducing tobacco use, especially among our youth,” said Heather Youmans, who oversees lobbying efforts for the Cancer Action Network in Florida. “Florida has seen its smoking rate drop from 14.5 percent in 2008 to 6.9 percent in 2015, thanks in part to our last tobacco tax increase.”

The groups are rallying behind bills (SB 758/ HB 335) filed by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston that would raise the surcharge on a standard pack of cigarettes from $1 to $2. As under the existing law, the revenue would be deposited into the Health Care Trust Fund to help pay for research on tobacco-related and cancer-related illnesses.

Stark said the tax hike would generate more than $400 million in revenue.

“A higher tobacco tax also will save Florida money by reducing tobacco-related health-care costs,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 17 percent of adults in Florida are smokers. More than 32,000 die each year from causes related to tobacco use.

The state Legislature last increased the tobacco tax in 2009 under then Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

[Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2015 11:34am]


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