Barbara Roberts, Oregon's former governor, published an op-ed in the Oregonian yesterday.
Oregon is the only state in the nation in the last 10 years to lower its cigarette tax. It's now time for Oregon to raise that tax.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski has proposed to do just that and to spend the money on important tobacco prevention and education efforts and vital services for our children. Now that the governor has taken the lead, our legislators should make it a priority during this session to pass legislation that will help create a healthier Oregon.
Some critics argue that relying on the tobacco tax creates an unstable funding source that, if successful, would cause smoking rates to drop, and thus funding to drop.
Governor Roberts points out, though, that state costs would drop as well - if smoking rates dropped:
Tobacco use is still the No. 1 preventable cause of death in Oregon. Nearly 40 percent of the patients on the Oregon Health Plan are smokers, costing taxpayers approximately $260 million in 2002 alone and creating huge health problems and thousands of deaths. When the price of tobacco goes up, it encourages adults to smoke less, reducing the rate of tobacco-related illness and saving money for the Oregon Health Plan. It also makes tobacco less affordable for children.
Of course, part of the tax-tobacco-and-fund-health-care plan is to restore the will of Oregon voters:
That's exactly why voters in 1996 approved Measure 44, which increased the tobacco tax and launched prevention efforts in Oregon, which have been on a roller-coaster ride ever since. ... Kulongoski's proposed budget expands funding to the prevention and education program to $34 million per biennium. These services would be paid for by restoring voter-approved Measure 44 funds and by raising Oregon's cigarette tax by 84.5 cents a pack, as well as increasing taxes on other tobacco products.
Read the rest. Discuss.