Tobacco Tax Measure Seeks To Reduce Rising Health Care Costs
Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Concord) on Tuesday led a panel discussion on legislation he is carrying that would increase the state tobacco tax to help pay for anti-smoking efforts in California and is intended to reduce health care costs, the Contra Costa Times reports. Torlakson is chair of the Senate Wellness Task Force.
Under SB 24, the tobacco tax would increase by $1.90 per pack of cigarettes. The increase would generate an estimated $200 million annually to help cover the cost of smoking-cessation services such as counseling and access to nicotine-replacement therapies. Insurers would be required to cover such treatments.
Torlakson said that proposals to overhaul California's health care system must include smoking-cessation efforts.
According to the Department of Health Care Services, smoking-related diseases cost California almost $9 billion annually in direct medical costs.
Health care advocates say an effective smoking-cessation program should include:
- Minimal out-of-pocket costs;
- No lifetime limit; and
- Adequate reimbursement for insurers covering the services.
Charles Janigian, president of the California Association of Retail Tobacconists, said, "We don't find any significant changes in the percentage of smokers through any additional programs." He added that "to deprive [smokers] the opportunity or to spend money to get them to stop would be money just wasted" (Harmon, Contra Costa Times, 7/11). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.