This afternoon, the House and Senate both passed an increase in the state tobacco tax. The $1 increase was part of the larger tax bill, and the legislature decided to pull out this piece to pass it with a July 1, 2008 effective date. The House passed the bill on a 95-52 vote, and the Senate passed it 26-9. The $1 increase will generate approximately $174 million, all of which will go into the Commonwealth Care Trust Fund to help pay for health reform. This money replaces other revenues proposed in the Governor’s budget (such as casino licensing) and therefore does not decrease the funding shortfall for health reform.
Increasing the cigarette tax to $2.51 per pack will prevent 46,000 kids from lighting up and spur 26,000 smokers to quit. The bill also includes all of the inventory currently held by sellers. A key concern, language that would eliminate the state’s minimum pricing law, was also left out of the conference committee version. This means that the state will see the full public health and health economic benefits from the increase.
The ACT!! Coalition, working with Tobacco-Free Mass, strongly supported the measure. Increasing the tobacco tax raises needed funds and decreases the cost of the health programs funded by the revenue. The bill text is here.