In Maryland, Raising Tobacco Taxes is A Must to Protect Youth

The Maryland House voted to override the governor’s veto of HB 732, the final step in

enacting the state’s first tobacco tax increase in over a decade. The policy includes a $1.75 per pack increase on cigarettes and, for the first time, a tax on electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes). The tobacco tax increase is projected to raise over $95 million in revenue, reduce the long-term health care costs from adult and youth smoking, offset costs associated with COVID-19, and provide critical funding for Maryland’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. We asked two our our youth advocates for their perspective on the tax increase – their responses are below.

From: Liliana Katz-Hollander, Youth Advocate, Kensington,  MD

We need to raise the tobacco tax to keep tobacco out of the hands of youth!  1 in 5 High school students and 1 in 20 middle school students are users of this highly addictive substance. We haven’t seen this level of youth tobacco use since 1976, when 28% of high school seniors smoked daily.

The 2014 Surgeon General’s report documented that tobacco taxes are one of the most effective tobacco control interventions.  And these price increases help to make tobacco too expensive for price-sensitive kids. Every 10 percent increase in price reduces the number of kids who smoke by six or seven percent.

The state of Maryland has been a leader in tobacco control. I have been advocating for stronger regulations on tobacco since I was 11 years old and I have experienced the commitment to this by our elected leaders.  In fact, one of my proudest moments was standing beside Governor Hogan as he signed the tobacco 21 bill – That was a great day. However, last year, the governor vetoed HB732 which would raise tobacco tax on cigarettes and for the first-time tax electronic smoking devises which have high youth use rate. This was a huge disappointment. One for which can be corrected with support for an override of the governor’s veto.

it’s crucial that our leaders do everything possible to keep tobacco products out of the hands of youth.  I don’t want to see my friends and family get sick or die early. I urge our leaders to support an override of the governor’s veto on HB 732.

From: Bruke Hirgeto, Youth Advocate, Maryland

Growing up, I’ve always heard that smoking is extremely bad for anyone. But I’ve always wondered why so many still smoked. Once I grew up and gained some knowledge, I learned about smoking’s addictive qualities but I also learned about all the ways to help people quit. However, I noticed that these different ways to help people quit smoking weren’t getting the attention they need. It seems like the nation values the money made from selling tobacco over the healthiness of our citizen’s hearts. To make it even worse, youth all over our nation are smoking without fully knowing what they are getting themselves into. I’ve seen many of my peers become tricked and influenced into believing that smoking makes them look “cool” and that it isn’t as harmful as people say. Part of this problem, and the problem of why so many adults smoke, is the fact of how cheap and easily accessible these substances are. The tax on tobacco is an excellent way to deter people from smoking and keep our nation’s heart healthy.

We know tobacco taxes help prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and helps curb tobacco use among long time tobacco users. With the funds provided through the tax, we can help build a healthier Maryland. Contact your legislator today.