Dr. Pan’s Tobacco Tax Bill Passes Key Hurdle in the Senate

April 22, 2015

Sacramento – Senate Bill 591, a bill that will help keep tobacco out of the hands of California’s youth, fund proven prevention programs like California's pioneering tobacco control program and improve access to health care services is one step closer to becoming law, after being approved by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on a vote of 5 to 2.

“California’s tobacco tax rate is currently among the lowest in the nation with 32 other states having a higher tax rate,” said Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), author of Senate Bill 591, the California Tobacco Tax Act of 2015. “By raising the tobacco tax, we will keep kids from picking up the habit and, at the same time, improve health care access for Medi-Cal patients and fund important prevention programs,”

Tobacco use claims about 40,000 lives in California each year, and about 440,600 youth living today are projected to die from smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California, overall, is estimated to have more than 3.6 million adult smokers and about 224,000 youth smokers.

SB 591 seeks to reduce those figures, as well as to reduce the related risks to nonsmokers, by bumping the current tax of 87 cents per pack to $2.87 — generating $1.5 billion as a result. Currently, California ranks in the bottom half of the country when it comes to tobacco tax rates. Thirty other states, including Montana and Texas, have cigarette tax rates of $1-per-pack or higher, and six states have a tax of $3-per-pack or higher. Reports show that increasing the cost of tobacco is one of the most effective ways to curb tobacco use.

SB 591 is supported by Save Lives California, a coalition composed of the American Heart Association, American Lung Association in California, California Medical Association and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in addition to doctors, nurses, patients, cancer survivors, hospitals and health care workers all dedicated to passing a life-saving $2 tobacco tax by the end of 2016. 

The bill will be heard next in the Senate Health Committee.

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