California lawmakers chose not to make smokers pay more for health insurance, but they may be more willing to make smokers pay more for cigarettes.
A new bill proposing to raise the tax on tobacco by $2 per pack of cigarettes cleared its first two committee votes last week in predictably partisan votes. SB 768, by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), would raise the price of cigarettes to more than $8 a pack and generate about $1.4 billion a year. De León proposes the money be used to offset costs of medical care for tobacco-related diseases, anti-tobacco education and smoking-cessation programs.
The Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved the bill in a 5-2 vote and the Senate Committee on Health approved it 6-2. All “yes” votes were Democrats. All “no” votes were Republican.
“Taxpayers pay $3.1 billion a year to subsidize this industry,” de León told the health committee, citing an estimate for California’s annual medical costs for tobacco-related diseases and health problems.
“On a fiscal level, the price is much too high, and taxpayers have been footing the bill for much too long,” de León said.
California, which hasn’t increased taxes on tobacco since 1998, now charges $0.87 cents on each pack of cigarettes and ranks 33rd in the country in tobacco taxation. De Leon’s bill would move the state into fourth place.