Use Tobacco Taxes for Cessation and Prevention Programs

TMA Testimony

House Bill 3536 by Rep. John Otto
April 9, 2013 

The Texas Medical Association (TMA), representing more than 47,000 physicians and medical students, is submitting written testimony on House Bill 3536 by Rep. John Otto. The association has a long history of supporting activities that reduce tobacco use, preventable illness, and deaths, and that ensure the viability of tobacco cessation and prevention programs in Texas. We believe revenue generated by this proposed tax should go towards tobacco cessation and prevention efforts.

Tobacco is the No. 1 agent causing preventable illness and death in our state. At least 24,000 Texans will die from a tobacco-related illness this year. And for each of these Texans, another 490,000 will get sick from a tobacco-related illness. We’ve all known for decades about the terrible health effects of cigarettes and secondhand smoke. Texas physicians advise patients to stop smoking for themselves and for their families because there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Anyone who inhales cigarette smoke, whether directly or secondhand, is exposed to thousands of chemicals ― many of which cause cancer.

Texas needs to reduce tobacco use, preventable illness, and deaths
Physicians support efforts to increase revenues from tobacco products that were not part of Texas’ landmark tobacco settlement, as proposed by HB 3536. We support tax increases on tobacco products — a strategy that reduces the number of people who smoke and the amount of tobacco used. Studies show a strong relationship between cigarette prices and cigarette use. This is particularly true among young tobacco users. An increase in cigarette tax impacts young people first, especially teenagers, many of whom have limited incomes. For example, a 10-percent increase in the price of a tobacco product results in an almost 7-percent decrease in tobacco use by minors. With more than 30,000 minors starting to smoke each year, this price increase will have an immediate impact in Texas. 

Texas needs to fund tobacco prevention and cessation efforts
Texas needs a comprehensive approach to reduce tobacco use —one that includes tobacco-free public and work environments and strong tobacco cessation programs. HB 3536 will help our state generate needed revenue to accomplish some of these important goals.   

TMA strongly recommends funding be appropriated to address tobacco cessation and prevention. Texas’ tobacco settlement recognized the physical harm to Texans and the costs associated with tobacco-related illnesses. We believe to maintain the spirit and fairness of the tobacco settlement, revenue from these new tobacco taxes must be directed to tobacco cessation. Current state funding of tobacco cessation and prevention programs is a fraction of what’s needed. We encourage you to ensure action by this legislature so tobacco-related revenue is directed toward tobacco cessation and proven prevention campaign efforts. 

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