Tobacco-Prevention Initiatives: Saving Lives and Money

Did you know?

  • Every year, nearly 40,000 Californians die needlessly from tobacco-related diseases.
  • Big Tobacco lures 16,800 California children a year into this deadly addiction, most of them children of color.
  • One out of every three kids who starts smoking will ultimately die as a direct result.
  • The healthcare cost of tobacco use is $13 billion a year in California.

Health Access is proud to be part of Save Lives California, which is working to pass life-saving, tobacco-prevention measures. Save Lives California is a strong coalition made up of the American Heart Association, American Lung Association in California and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, joined by doctors, dentists, nurses, patients, survivors, hospitals, health care workers, unions, and taxpayers that is working together to decrease the impact of tobacco-related illness and deaths.

The Save Lives California coalition advocated for passage of key tobacco-control legislation and is putting a campaign in place to pass a ballot measure that will increase the tobacco tax to $2 per pack this fall.

History in the Making

This month, the California Legislature made history and passed a package of tobacco-control bills that will that will improve the health of our state by reducing the harmful and devastating effects of smoking, and save money for our health system. The bills are now headed to Governor Brown’s desk for signature. When enacted, these bills will:

  • Require all schools to be tobacco-free.
  • Raise the minimum sales age from 18 to 21 for tobacco products.
  • Address the growing public health concern about the unregulated use of e-cigarettes.
  • Close loopholes in the state’s smoke-free workplace law.
  • Allow counties to raise their own tobacco taxes.
  • Make sure tobacco retail license fees cover the cost of operating and enforcing the licensing program.

After they are signed into law by Governor Brown, these laws will mark a huge victory for the health of Californians and will be the most important anti-smoking legislation passed in California in nearly 20 years.

The Voters Will Decide

Save Lives California and Health Access California are also dedicated to passing a life-saving, $2 per pack tobacco tax that will appear on the November 2016 ballot. In November, California voters will be able to weigh-in on the initiative which will raise California’s cigarette tax by $2 a pack and protect a new generation from addiction by including e-cigarettes containing tobacco in the state’s tobacco tax. California’s tax has not been raised since 1998 and ranks in the bottom third of U.S. states. Tobacco taxes work because they does not impact those who do not smoke and they reduce the rates of new and young users. Research shows that for every 10% increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes, teen smoking drops by up to 6.5%.

Improving the Medi-Cal Program

Reducing the impacts of smoking is key to keeping Medi-Cal patients healthier and saving taxpayers money. Through the measures passed this month and the ballot initiative this fall, California can recoup the costs to the state’s Medi-Cal program for tobacco-related diseases. The state can use that money to improve the program and access to care, benefiting the health system. Further, increasing the price of tobacco decreases the number of those who use it, especially among price-sensitive populations, like young people. The revenues raised by the tax will help strengthen the health care safety-net and California’s health system as a whole.

Health Access California will continue to remain active in this Save Lives California and help pass the tobacco tax ballot initiative this fall.