Oregon lawmakers took serious action to further reduce the rates of tobacco and nicotine use in the state. With the support of hospitals, health systems, labor unions and care organizations, state Democrats pushed House Bill 2270 to the November 2020 ballot.
The bill will significantly increase the cost of cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes in an effort to decrease the number of state residents who use those products. Some details outlined in the bill include:
- Increasing the tax on packs of cigarettes, equaling $3.33 per pack in fees compared to the current $1.33
- Removing a tax cap on cigars that will force premium cigars to cost at least $3 each
- Starting a new tax on all e-cigarette and vaping products to match the 65% wholesale tax currently in place for some other tobacco products
Oregon made recent strides to deter tobacco use among its citizens since 1997 when it formed its Tobacco Prevention and Education Program (TPEP). Since then, the state was able to cut cigarette sales in half, but tobacco-related problems remain:
- Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Oregon
- Tobacco kills 8,000 people each year
- Tobacco use costs the state $2.5 billion each year in medical bills, lost productivity and premature death
Other issues arise from the increase in vaping products in recent years. According to TPEP, about half of young people who use tobacco or nicotine are consuming flavored tobacco or using vapes.
Goals of the Tobacco Tax
The Oregon tobacco tax aims to accomplish much from this proposed increase. State youth seem to be the top priority.
By raising the cost of cigarettes and vaping products, the state hopes to make the items too expensive for most people to afford. If this plan is effective, the state believes the bill will:
- Prevent more than 19,000 kids from starting nicotine use
- Help over 31,000 adults stop smoking
- Stop nearly 14,000 people from premature death due to tobacco use
In addition to making nicotine more expensive, the Oregon tax plans to create positive accomplishments with the extra tax revenue. Supporters of House Bill 2270 expect the tax hike will produce almost $100 million for the budget quickly. In time, the bill could generate almost $175 million each year.
Not only will the bill save the lives of smokers and teens who may become smokers, but the additional revenue sparked by the bill will go toward helping citizens of Oregon in need. The surplus in funds will help the state pay for its Medicaid program, which offers health care for those without financial means or access to other health care options.
A special portion of the money raised by this tax will go toward making mental health care more available to the people of Oregon. Since Oregon has some of the highest rates of suicide anywhere in the country, these funds could make a positive impact for many.
Some Residents Are Against the Tax
With any proposed tax increases, some people are against the idea of higher cigarette and vaping prices. Those who plan to continue to smoke, no matter the cost, will feel the tax’s presence with every purchase. People that own convenience stores and vape shops, as well as anyone who benefits from the sale of tobacco products, stand to lose profits if the measure passes in 2020.
In 2007, when a similar tobacco bill was up for a vote, tobacco companies poured $12 million into the effort to defeat it, and experts are expecting a similar response once again.
CBS News. “Oregon Finishes Whirlwind Votes After Republicans Stall Session.” July 1, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2019.
Dean, Jacob. “Tobacco Tax Bill Passes, Sent to Oregon Voters.” KXL FM 101 News, July 1, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2019.
Oregon Health Authority. “Oregon Tobacco Facts.” 2018. Accessed July 13, 2019.
VanderHart, Dirk. “Once Stalled, A Cigarette Tax Hike Is Moving In Oregon Capitol.” OPB, June 13, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2019.