Proposed State of Colorado Budget Cuts to Tobacco Cessation Programs Could Negatively Affect the Health of Coloradans
Legislature Update (4-17-09, 4:15pm)
News Conference: Protect Health, Not the Tobacco Industry (4-15-09)
The Colorado legislature is seeking funds to cover a state budget shortfall of approximately $700 million for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. The Colorado Senate has passed Senate Bill 09-271 to transfer revenue from state tobacco sales, which Colorado voters approved in 2004 to be spent on healthcare programs (Amendment #35), and use it for other purposes. If this bill passes the Senate, House and is signed by the governor, it could have a negative impact on the health of Coloradans and increase healthcare spending.
Coloradans interested in voicing their opinions about this matter should contact their state representative today. Learn more about contacting your state senator or representative.
What is Amendment #35?
Amendment #35 to the Colorado constitution was passed by 62 percent of Colorado voters in November 2004 increasing the state excise tax on cigarettes to 84 cents/pack. This tax is in addition to the current federal excise tax of $1.01 per pack paid by tobacco wholesalers. The state cigarette excise tax produces approximately $180 million/year in revenue, and is mandated by law to be spent as follows:
- 16 percent State Tobacco Education and Prevention Program (STEPP, Colo Dept of Health)
- 16 percent Chronic Disease Prevention Grant Program (Colo Dept of Health)
- 46 percent Children's Health Insurance Program
- 19 percent Health Clinics
- 3 percent Other Health Programs
What will be affected if SB 09-271 passes the Legislature and is signed by the governor?
For the next fiscal year, this bill would cut $8 million from Colorado's tobacco prevention and cessation program (STEPP), which includes the Colorado QuitLine, and $12 million from the state health department program for prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, and pulmonary diseases (CCPD).
Why can legislators take money away from programs supported by Amendment #35?
Amendment #35 includes a fiscal emergency provision allowing the legislature to transfer funds from the healthcare programs it was designed to support for one year upon a 2/3 vote of the House and Senate with the Governor's approval.
Is this transfer in funds necessary? Are there other options?
The cut to Amendment #35 programs is unnecessary. Colorado is one of only three states that exempt cigarettes from state sales tax. Extending the 2.9 percent state sales tax to cigarettes is estimated to raise $30 million annually and add 15 cents to the price of a pack of cigarettes. The legislature can remove this exemption. House Bill 09-1342, which would end the cigarette sales tax exemption, is now being considered by the Colorado House of Representatives.
Why are the programs, such as QuitLine, that are supported by Amendment #35 so important?
Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, accounting for 435,000 preventable deaths and untold billions of dollars of unnecessary healthcare expenses each year. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that tobacco smokers each year incur $1,600 more in healthcare costs than non-smokers, and cost an additional $1,760 in lost productivity.
What does it mean for Colorado?
Colorado is fortunate to have a highly successful tobacco cessation program. The state-funded Colorado QuitLine, a telephonic and Internet program for tobacco cessation, increases a Colorado smoker's chances of successfully quitting by nine-fold. In the last four years, the Colorado QuitLine has provided coaching and pharmacotherapy to more than 125,000 Colorado citizens, resulting in more than 40,000 people who have quit smoking and stayed smoke-free for at least one year. Data indicate that healthcare costs begin declining in the first year after smokers quit. Additionally, in the long-term, former smokers are less likely to develop heart disease, emphysema and lung cancer for decades to come.
During the past week smokers have flooded the QuitLine system, trying to quit smoking as the federal excise tax on cigarettes increases. The number of QuitLine calls has increased by more than 400 percent. QuitLine assistance to smokers is more critical now than ever.
Help Save Colorado Tobacco Cessation Programs
There are three ways to help save Colorado tobacco cessation programs.
1. Contact Your State Senator or Representative
The Colorado House of Representatives will vote on House Bill 09-1342 (cigarette sales tax) soon, so contact your representative today. A brief letter or phone call does make a difference. Be sure to let your representative know you're a constituent (live in the representative's district).
Locate Your Representative
To locate your state representative, visit Project Vote Smart and enter your nine-digit zip code: http://www.votesmart.org
(Find your nine-digit zip code)
Not sure what to say to your state representative? Be courteous and brief. Here are a few talking points:
- Remind your representative that the funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs was approved by 62 percent of voters in 2004.
- Share your personal experience and knowledge about tobacco and healthcare.
- Mention that the proposed cut to Amendment 35 funds is unnecessary. Ask your representative to vote "yes" on HB 09-1342.
- Note that during these tough economic times, tobacco prevention and cessation programs can help governments and individuals save money and lives.
- Thank your representative for considering your viewpoint.
2. Add to the List of Supporting Organizations
A statewide coalition is developing a list of organizations supporting the initiative preserving tobacco tax funding for health purposes.
If you know of a group that will add its name to the list of supporters, email Erin Bertoli at the American Heart Association: email@example.com
3. Spread the Word
Help us let other Coloradans know about the threat to Colorado QuitLine funding.