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 calls for the following actions to be taken by Montana's elected officials:
- Defend funding for Montana's Tobacco Use Prevention Program;
- Defend Montana's smokefree workplace laws; and
- Protect Montana's youth by raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
Several pieces of legislation had been introduced in previous sessions to increase Montana's tobacco taxes. During the 2017 session, Senate Bill 354 proposed increasing the cigarette tax by $1.50 to $3.20 per pack. While this bill passed the state Senate, it faced an uphill battle in the state House of Representatives and the legislation died. Montana legislators have demonstrated little appetite to support large, meaningful tobacco tax increases.
Stakeholder groups, including the American Lung Association in Montana, began to research the possibility of increasing tobacco taxes through a ballot initiative process in early 2018. An exploratory workgroup found that a tobacco tax initiative campaign in Montana would be viable, and this option was pursued.
Initiative 185 would have increased the state's cigarette tax by $2.00 to $3.70 per pack, increase other tobacco product taxes and establish a new tax on electronic smoking devices. The revenue from this initiative would have maintained health insurance for 100,000 Montanans, provided additional funding to tobacco prevention and cessation programs and supported other health services for seniors and veterans. Unfortunately, the Initiative was narrowly not approved by voters. The tobacco industry spent a staggering $18 million opposing the ballot measure to protect their profits at the expense of public health.
The American Lung Association in Montana will continue to support policies to reduce tobacco use in Montana in the 2019 legislative session
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