Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Virginia. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Virginia calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase the cigarette excise tax by at least $1.00 per pack;
- Create parity between taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products; and
- Fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended level.
In the 2017 legislative session, a bill was introduced which would allow all localities to impose a cigarette tax by removing the requirement that only those localities that had such authority prior to 1977 are eligible. The bill would have set a maximum rate on the cigarette tax imposed by counties of five cents per pack or the amount levied under state law, whichever is greater. The bill was left in the Senate Finance Committee.
Bills to authorize any county to impose a tax on cigarettes were also introduced in the House and state Senate. Again, both were left in their respective Finance Committees and died.
The American Lung Association in Virginia led efforts to urge the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee to give a favorable review for Medicaid coverage of benefits consistent with CDC recommendations and Virginia law, including FDA-approved pharmacotherapy products.
Several bills dealing with electronic cigarettes were also introduced in 2017, including a bill that would authorize cities and towns and certain counties to impose a tax on vapor products. The state tax rate is $0.05 per fluid milliliter of consumable vapor product and 10 percent of the retail price for electronic cigarettes or similar products or devices. The bill required revenues from the state tax on vapor products to be deposited into the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Fund. The bill was left in the Finance Committee and died at the end of the session.
In 2018, priorities for the American Lung Association in Virginia will include working to ensure prevention and cessation programs are funded, an increase in the cigarette excise tax, and parity between taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.