1. Support a Youth Tobacco Prevention Package to include:
a. Increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation;
b. Increase the licensure fee to sell tobacco products;
c. Increase the age of sale for tobacco products to age 21; and
2. Remove the exemptions from the current Clean Indoor Air Act that restricts smoking in public places and workplaces.
A major victory occurred during the 2016 legislative session when the Pennsylvania legislature passed a $1.00 per pack cigarette tax increase, which brings the total tax on cigarettes to $2.60 per pack. Also passed was the first ever tax on other tobacco products which imposed a 40 percent tax on the wholesale price of electronic cigarettes, including devices and liquid cartridges, and a 55-cent per ounce tax on any loose and smokeless tobacco products.
The cigarette tax increase will save an estimated 32,200 lives in Pennsylvania and keep more than 48,100 kids from becoming addicted adult smokers. The tax increase is also expected to prompt more than 65,600 adult smokers in Pennsylvania to quit, all while saving the state an estimated $2.19 billion in long-term health care costs.
While the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania was pleased with the decision to tax some other tobacco products there was an opportunity missed to fully protect residents from the health harms of tobacco by implementing a low, weight-based tax on smokeless and roll-your-own tobacco and not taxing cigars. These products, which are becoming increasingly popular among young people, are not safe alternatives to cigarettes.
A number of other tobacco-related bills were also introduced in the legislature in 2016, including several supported by the Lung Association. Two identical bills were introduced to remove exemptions from the current Clean Indoor Air Act - one in the Senate and one in the House. Both bills would also add electronic cigarettes to the current law. The House bill had a hearing in the Health Committee, but was weakened after a vote in the same committee and subsequently stalled.
A bill to further strengthen insurance coverage and access for cessation was supported by the Lung Association as well.
The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania 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: to support a youth tobacco prevention package that increases funding for tobacco prevention and cessation, increases the license fee to sell tobacco products, and increases the sales age for tobacco products to 21. We will also continue to work to remove the exemptions from the current clean indoor air law.