DES MOINES, Iowa -- This week, the American Heart Association proposed lawmakers raise the state's cigarette tax from a $1.36 to $2.86 per pack, a more than double increase. Advocates say the increase would generate more than $106 million in revenue and save lives.
“We believe in the stats that we have that 19, 000 youths will never start smoking if this bill is passed we also believe that 22,000 Iowa adults would quit if this bill was passed,” says Doug Chew, an advocate for the American Heart Association.
The last time the state raised the tax was in 2007. The revenue made off cigarettes was supposed to go towards smoking prevention programs but now primarily goes into the public health fund.
“As long as we are helping Iowans to live their lives better, and as long as we are helping reduce the cost of public health the tax is worth it,” says Chew.
While budget cuts played a role in how the money is used, the state is making progress in decreasing the number of smokers thanks to programs like the Smoke Free Air Act. The Iowa Department of Public Health says a tobacco tax hike usually has a positive effect.
“It is true, especially for young people and those that are of less means that tobacco increase does lower tobacco consumption significantly so it really depends on the amount of increase as to the effect you see, “says Garin Buttermore.
It’s a possible increase coming at a good time. State officials warn the longer a state goes without a tax increase consumers get used to it don’t mind paying more money.
According the IDPH, the state's health care cost linked to tobacco use add up to more than one billion dollars.