American Cancer Society advocates want Iowa lawmakers to consider raising the state’s cigarette tax again to discourage tobacco use, but House Republicans quickly snuffed out that idea Wednesday.
Dr. Richard Deming, a radiation oncologist who is medical director at Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines and a cancer society volunteer who founded the “Above + Beyond Cancer” program, said Iowa saw positive results in tobacco use among Iowans when the state cigarette tax increased to $1.36 a pack in March 2007 but he expressed concern that those trends are beginning to reverse course as state funding of tobacco cessation and prevention programs have declined.
“Tobacco kills more people than any other substance and one third of all cancers are caused by tobacco,” said Deming, who joined other “Cancer Action Network” advocates to lobby state legislators on cancer-fighting initiatives. “Increasing the cost of a pack of cigarette will decrease smoking. It’s been proven time and time again. If we were to increase the tobacco tax, that would decrease smoking and that would save lives.”
Society spokesman Chuck Reed said Iowa ranked 26th nationally for cigarette taxes after former Gov. Chet Culver signed the dollar-per-pack increase but has slipped since as other states have approved tax hikes on tobacco products. Anti-smoking proponents have not proposed a specific increase, but Reed noted that any tax hike would have to be enough to encourage smokers to quit or not start the habit.
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said the governor has not proposed a cigarette tax increase and has not seen any movement in the Legislature to suggest that one is forthcoming.
What do you think? Would you support raising the cigarette tax to curb smoking in Iowa?