Last week, the state of Oregon got some great news in the form of the May revenue forecast. It turns out that the state has more money that they anticipated from just two years ago and hard cuts to important public service programs will more than likely not have to be made this year. However, this good news has put a priority piece of legislation for the American Heart Association in limbo.
For the past two years, AHA has been working to build a group of stakeholders to increase the price of tobacco products, something Oregon hasn't done in almost 20 years, and institute the first e-cigarette tax in the state. Since tax increases create additional revenue that in the immediate future, we may not need, there are now questions about if we will pass this important piece of legislation. But for the American Heart Association, this was never really about the money the tax increase would create. It was the importance of the public health policy behind it.
hero_image_alt_text===A picture of two hands one holding a cigarette and one holding an e-cigarette
thumbnail_alt_text===A picture of two hands one holding a cigarette and one holding an e-cigarette
Raising the price of nicotine protects kids from a deadly addiction and helps people quit. Smoking is still the number one cause of preventable death in Oregon. E-cigarette and tobacco companies target kids with highly addictive, nicotine-filled products to hook the next generation so they have customers for their products. Data from the CDC and FDA state that nationwide, one in five high schoolers used e-cigarettes in 2018, a 78% increase from 2016.
Raising the price of tobacco and nicotine products is the single most effective tool for reducing use, particularly with price-sensitive youth. Studies demonstrate that this bill will prevent over 19,000 Oregon kids from ever taking up smoking and help 31,000 Oregon adults to quit smoking. We need to protect our kids by making these products more expensive and therefore less accessible and to provide stable funding for cessation and education programs for communities most effected by tobacco use. The longer we wait the more money the state will have to spend on tobacco related disease - Oregon currently spends $1.5 billion annually in healthcare costs related to tobacco. The time to act is now.