Michigan Coalition Promotes Tobacco Tax Increase

April 21, 2004

A new Michigan coalition called the Health Leaders Alliance (HLA) announced it formally supports House Bill 5632, sponsored by Representative Larry Julian (R), which includes Governor Granholm’s proposal for a 75 cent tobacco tax increase.

The coalition, whose battle cry is “Hike it for health—support the tobacco tax, protect funding for health,” is calling for the estimated $295 million in new revenue generated by the hike to be used for statewide healthcare programming

The HLA fully endorses HB 5632 and the Governor’s proposed plan to designate the first $30 million of the new tax dollars for prevention programs supported through the Healthy Michigan Fund. This would include tobacco cessation, chronic disease prevention and maternal and child health programs. The remaining $265 million would be allocated to Medicaid to serve Michigan’s most vulnerable populations—children, the elderly, and the disabled.

“Our list of supporters reads like a who’s who in Michigan,” said Judy Stewart, government relations manager for the American Cancer Society, Great Lakes Division Inc. and HLA Campaign Manager. “We have seventy-nine organizations to date, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the American Cancer Society and the Michigan State Medical Society, and we are growing daily.”

Public opinion polling in March has confirmed widespread support of the tobacco tax increase. Findings by Mitchell Research & Communications showed 82 percent of registered voters are very concerned or somewhat concerned about tobacco use among young people. Seventy four percent favored the tax increase while only 23 percent opposed.

“What we want the public to know is that this hike is a win, win, win for Michigan,” Stewart said. “First, it is a health win because it will keep kids from smoking and will reduce smoking among adults. Second, it is a fiscal win because it will raise new revenue for the state budget and save dollars by preventing health problems. Specifically, it will increase funding support for preventing chronic diseases, which account for 70 percent of all deaths and nearly 75 percent of all health care costs. And third, it is a political win for all politicians because of widespread public support. Michiganians want this tax hike passed.”

According to Thomas Simmer, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, four former U.S. Surgeon Generals agree that increases in cigarette taxes will improve the health of the nation. “A 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by 5 percent or more,” said Simmer. “We join in support of a cigarette tax increase that can help keep Michigan kids from smoking and also provide help to a much-needed health program in the community.”

Smoking accounts for $2.7 billion in annual health care costs in Michigan. Organizations wishing to join the Health Leaders Alliance to lower the burden of tobacco-related diseases in Michigan can visit www.mitobaccotax.org or contact jstewart@cancer.org .

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