This past legislative session, the Utah Legislature seriously considered House Bill 355 (HB 355), sponsored by Representative Paul Ray, which would have increased the cigarette tax from $.69 to $1.19 and provided appropriations for preventive health activities. Unfortunately, we missed a wonderful opportunity to pass HB 355.
There was overwhelming public support for HB 355. Polling by the American Heart Association found a 50 cent increase was supported by 85 percent of the population. The state of Utah would have also benefited from 25 to 30 million dollars in reliable revenue which would have assisted in the funding of essential health care services, as well as education and tobacco prevention programs. Studies and national experience show that higher cigarette taxes effectively reduce smoking among both youth and adults.
The 2009 session will provide yet another chance for the Utah Legislature to do the right thing and help build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Increasing the tax on cigarettes will decrease smoking in Utah and provide cleaner air for our citizens.
Next year, let's give a voice to Utahns who overwhelmingly support a tobacco tax increase.