Lawmakers should recommit to tobacco prevention.
hero_image_alt_text===VT Statehouse in Snow
The legislature has a number of opportunities before it to reduce tobacco use -- the leading cause of preventable disease and death.
Vermont just received $28 million in new tobacco settlement monies for its role in diligently enforcing the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies. The Governor has already claimed $14 million to address the opioid crisis, but at least a portion of that money that came as a result of the tobacco industry getting Vermonters' hooked on a product that will kill them, should be used to prevent others from getting hooked.
The House Ways and Means Committee recently passed an excise tax on e-cigarettes that is 46% of the wholesale price. This translates to about half of the existing tobacco tax. A much higher bump could prevent kids from using them and would help decrease the 25% of Vermont students who are now using some form of tobacco, including e-cigarettes.
Burlington voters on City Meeting Day passed a ballot 70% to 30% measure urging the governor and legislature to raise the sale age of tobacco to 21. We think this is a great idea and it's time to act. There is also legislation before the House that would give municipalities the authority to pass ordinances in their communities raising the sale age of tobacco.
Vermont’s adult smoking rate now lags behind the nation – 18% compared to 15.5% nationwide. If we reduced smoking to 12% by 2020, Vermont would save $229 million dollars. All the more reason to act now.