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Health Advocates Say "Tobacco Job Loss" Threat a Smokescreen

January 26, 2009

Richmond, VA – Republicans in Virgina's General Assembly vow to kill Governor Tim Kaine's 30 cent tax increase on cigarettes, saying it'll cost the state much-needed jobs. But that doesn't add up, says Cathleen Smith Grzesiek from the American Heart Association. She says that at least half of the tobacco that's grown in the United States is shipped overseas, and even if the new tax caused every smoker in Virginia to quit, the effect on the tobacco industry in the state would still barely be noticed.

"Totally eliminating all cigarette sales in Virginia would reduce the overall demand for all U.S. grown flue-cured tobacco by only one to two percent. So we're finding that reduction in American consumption isn't really having an impact on American-grown tobacco and American farmers."

She adds that what's needed is a significant tax, not only to discourage youth smoking, but also to help cover the hundreds of millions of dollars Virginia pays each year for tobacco-caused health problems.

"Virginia's smoking-related illnesses cost Virginians 400 million dollars a year in Medicaid costs. And our current cigarette tax brings in about 127 million dollars, so we're not even offsetting the costs."

What's more, Grzesiek says, the Governor's 30 cent proposal wouldn't even increase the price of a pack of cigarettes because tobacco companies usually offset small tax increases with discounts and promotions.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA