Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Montana. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Montana calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase tobacco taxes by $1.00 per pack or more; and
- Maintain/increase funding for Montana's successful Tobacco Use Prevention Program.
During the 2017 legislative session, Senator Caferro introduced Senate Bill 354 to increase Montana's cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack and also extend the tax to include electronic smoking devices. This legislation passed the state Senate on a 27 to 22 vote but failed to move through the House, ultimately receiving a do not pass recommendation from the House Committee on Taxation. Governor Bullock had included a 50-cent cigarette tax increase in his proposed budget as well. Montana's last cigarette tax increase was in 2005.
Unfortunately, funding for Montana's Tobacco Use Prevention Program suffered a significant cut in the fiscal year 2018 and 2019 two-year state budget dropping to $5.2 million per year from $6.4 million per year during the previous two-year budget cycle.
Though disappointed in not passing the tobacco tax increase and the cut in tobacco prevention and cessation funding, advocates were able to raise public awareness of the tobacco tax issue through earned media in the state. While there is no regular legislative session in Montana in 2018, a special session to deal with state budget issues is possible. Tobacco prevention advocates, including the American Lung Association in Montana, will continue to build on momentum from 2017 and work to increase Montana's tobacco tax in future legislative sessions.