CDA Launches Tobacco Tax Petition

Image courtesy of radnatt at


Image courtesy of radnatt at

The California Dental Association (CDA) has teamed up with the Save Lives California coalition to launch an online petition urging the California Legislature to raise the state’s tobacco tax. The groups also have initiated a statewide digital advertising campaign to mobilize support for the effort.

“By signing this petition, you will help CDA and the Save Lives California coalition keep pressure on the legislature to take the necessary actions to help prevent tobacco use, which is harmful to oral health, kills thousands of lives every year, and costs billions in health care costs,” said CDA president Walt Weber, DDS.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and claims 40,000 lives a year in California, according to the CDA. Also, 21,000 children in the state become addicted each year, with half eventually dying of smoking, the coalition says. Tobacco use costs the state $13 billion annually in health care expenses as well, including $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars for the Medi-Cal program. And, in addition to increased risk of cancer, tobacco use contributes to tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth discoloration.

“Dentists have long stood as an important line of defense not just for our patients’ oral health, but also their overall health,” said Weber. “Every day, our members see the devastation caused by cigarettes and other forms of tobacco use.”

The coalition is sponsoring new tobacco tax legislation in the state’s special legislation session on health care, SB X2-13 and AB X2-16, to raise the tobacco tax by $2 a pack, up from the current tax of 87 cents a pack, which ranks 35th in the nation and has remained the same since 1998. A recent Field Poll shows that 50% of California voters strongly support an increase of $2 a pack, and 17% somewhat favor it.

The California Tobacco Tax for Healthcare, Research & Prevention Act doesn’t create new programs. It supports existing programs created by California’s previous tobacco tax laws. The nonpartisan State Auditor will perform annual audits of all funding, which will be available to the public. Each department receiving money from the act is required to annually publish the amount received and how that money was spent publicly on their websites. No more than 5% will be spent on administrative costs.

Raising the cost of tobacco products is a proven way to prevent and decrease use, the CDA says. When the cost of a pack of cigarettes increases 10%, youth smoking decreases as much as 7%, according to the CDA. California currently has about 3.4 million adult smokers and 200,000 youth smokers. The CDA also notes that 9 out of 10 smokers had their first cigarette before the age of 18, and if current rates continue, one in every 13 American children alive today will eventually die of smoking.

The revenue raised by the tax, about $1.5 billion in the first year, will help offset the costs to the Medi-Cal program, increase the number of doctors serving Medi-Cal patients, fund smoking prevention and education programs, and expand law enforcement programs to prevent underage sales and tobacco tax evasion. It will fund grants to medical researchers in the University of California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program to help speed research into treatments and cures for diseases like breast and lung cancer, heart disease, and diabetes as well.

The digital ad campaign includes video spots on Facebook, Pandora radio, and online ads running in various legislative districts across California. If the legislation is not approved, the Save Lives Coalition has filed ballot measures for the November 2016 ballot to take the issue to the voters. The group includes the California Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Taken together, this legislation is essential to building a healthier, smoke-free California,” said Olivia J. (Gertz) Diaz-Lapham, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California. “The net effect of these bills would be millions of lives and dollars saved in our state.”