In addition to the Presidential election and down-ballot races that will be decided on Tuesday, California has posted Proposition 56. A yes vote on the measure will raise the state’s tax on tobacco products, increasing the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 87 cents to $2.87. According to the California Dental Association (CDA), which supports the increase, higher tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce tobacco use.
If enacted, revenues from the increase will support Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal, which provide coverage for about a third of all Californians. Funding also will be directed to tobacco cessation and research programs. Plus, $30 million will be dedicated to California’s oral health program, overseen by the new state dental director. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that Proposition 56 would add about $20 million in new funding for comprehensive school-based anti-tobacco prevention and intervention efforts as well.
The CDA notes that the use of electronic cigarettes among teenagers has grown by a factor of 10 during the past 4 years and these teens are 3 times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes within a year. Additionally, 17,000 children in California start smoking each year, with a third of them eventually dying from tobacco-related disease. But the CDA also notes that each 10% increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes leads to a 7% drop in teen smoking.
Smoking’s effects on oral health range from stained teeth and tongue and a dulled sense of taste and smell to gum disease and oral cancer, according to the ADA. Also, the ADA states, smoking leads to slower healing after extractions and other surgery, along with difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems. The Oral Health Foundation adds that oral cancer affects more than 640,000 people worldwide each year, with 43,000 in the United States.
“Dentists see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day, and we are very pleased that California has taken bold steps to protect our residents from these deadly products,” said Ken Wallis, DDS, president of the CDA.