The American Cancer Society has blasted Connecticut Democrats’ latest budget proposal, which would raise the state’s tobacco tax, but take away money to help people quit the habit.
The proposal, made public last week, would raise the tax on cigarettes by 45 cents a pack, and on smokeless tobacco by $2 an ounce. But contrary to what you might expect, none of that money goes toward government efforts to help people quit.
“In essence, what this proposal would do is it would tie Connecticut at number one for the highest tax in the country, but it would also tie us at number one for the lowest amount of tobacco control spending in the country as well,” said Bryte Johnson of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
That’s because alongside the tax hike, the proposal removes all funding for tobacco control programs for two years. Tobacco control includes the Quitline that provides help and advice to smokers who want to give up the habit, personal counseling services, and the provision of nicotine substitutes and medication.
The Cancer Action Network says 4,900 people die in the state each year of tobacco related illnesses, and we spend about $2 billion on health care costs.
“Four thousand nine hundred deaths annually amounts to about 13 a day,” Johnson told WNPR. “Over $2 billion in costs annually amounts to about $230,000 an hour, every hour, every day, all year long. And we’re doing nothing about that.”
But the Democrats appear to be following a well worn path; since the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund was set up in the state to provide tobacco control programs in 2000, its funding has been swept or cut more than 70 times.