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As Expected: Cigarette Tax Pays Off

October 5, 2007

Des Moines IA – Before lawmakers approved it, advocates of an increase in the state's cigarette tax, including the American Cancer Society(/em>, assured the public that it would generate more revenue, while encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging new smokers -- all at the same time.

The latest information indicates they were right. Quitline Iowa reports a 30 percent reduction in cigarette sales. Ester Baker, deputy director of Quitline Iowa and the Iowa Tobacco Research Center, says in the weeks following the new dollar-a-pack tax hike, calls from smokers tripled.

"Most of the people who called said it was because cigarettes are becoming less affordable and, 'I need to really try to quit.'"

Despite the decline in smoking, the revenue generated by the tax is far greater than state officials expected. Christopher Squire, director of the Iowa Commission for Tobacco Use and Control, says the next battle will be over legislation that would allow local control in determining restrictions on secondhand smoke. It reminds Squire of where Iowa stood before passing the tobacco tax.

"As with the tobacco tax, we are now an island again. Minnesota and Illinois have strong smoke-free legislation."

Squire says the advocacy groups were right about the concurrent increase in revenue and drop in smoking in Iowa. He believes they're also right in opposing the local-control approach. He feels a consistent, statewide policy makes more sense.

Dick Layman/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - IA