Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Delaware. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Delaware calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase the sales age for tobacco products to 21 years old; and
- Fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended level.
The 2017 legislative session was the first year of the 49th General Assembly of Delaware's two-year session. In 2017, House Bill 242, was passed, which only called for a 50-cent increase to the state's tobacco tax – from $1.60 to $2.10 per pack. The legislation falls short on maximizing the value of the tobacco tax as a tool to discourage smoking by youth and adults. In addition, the tax on all tobacco products besides vapor products (e-cigarettes), moist snuff, and cigarettes was increased to 30 percent of the wholesale price from 15 percent previously. Also, the tax on moist snuff was increased to 92 cents per ounce from 54 cents. Finally, a new tax was imposed on vapor products at the rate of 5 cents per fluid millimeter of liquid in the product as of January 1 of this year.
This Act also increased the fees charged for retail tobacco product licenses and tobacco product vending machine licenses. It was a long overdue increase as these license fees were originally established in 1964 and last increased in 1969. The vending machine license fee was last increased in 1976. By including vapor products in the definition of tobacco products, vapor product wholesalers, retailers, and vending machine operators must pay license fees at the same rates as for traditional tobacco products.
The Delaware Health Fund, where tobacco Master Settlement Agreement dollars received by the state are directed, received almost $25 million total in fiscal year 2018. Total tobacco prevention and cessation funding remained about the same as the previous year at $6.36 million.
The American Lung Association in Delaware will continue to educate lawmakers on the ongoing fight against tobacco. Our goal is to build champions within the legislature and a groundswell of advocates to advance our goals, including funding to prevent our youth from starting to smoke as well as helping individuals who want to quit to do so and increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 years old.