The American Heart Association and Health Organizations Respond to Governor Northam’s 2021 Budget Tobacco Tax Increase

“The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Medical Society of Virginia, and appreciate the Governor including an increase in funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, seeking funding for reinsurance, and including a tobacco tax in his proposed 2021 budget. However, the proposed cigarette tax increase of $0.30 is insignificant and far too low to protect youth from becoming addicted to tobacco and not the best mechanism to fully fund reinsurance.

“Virginia currently ranks 50th in the nation on cigarette taxes and is in desperate need of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to stop the tobacco industry from targeting our youth. The Governor’s proposed tax increase would still fall far below the national average state tax on cigarettes, which $1.81.

“We urge the Virginia Legislature to increase the tobacco tax by at least $1.00 and levy a comparable wholesale tax on all tobacco products including electronic cigarettes and heated- products. The evidence is overwhelming that increasing the tobacco tax by at least $1.00 would prevent thousands of Virginia children from never taking up smoking, encourage thousands of adults to stop smoking, save millions in health care costs, and provide resources to allow the state to more appropriately fund tobacco cessation and prevention.

“A higher tobacco tax would allow the state to both fund reinsurance and devote more funds to cessation. An increase of $1.50 could generate over $430 million for these important programs.

“The proposed $0.066 per milliliter e-cigarette tax is too small to create any public health benefits and instead should be a percentage tax applied at wholesale. With the proposed tax, it would be roughly 4 cents increase per e-cigarette pod. The amount is nominal and does not serve as a deterrent to prevent and protect youth from tobacco.

“Virginia youth and families deserve more protections from the tobacco industry. The current youth vaping epidemic is threatening the health of Virginia children―permanent and immediate solutions to protect them from a lifetime of tobacco and nicotine addiction are needed now.

“The time is now to protect our youth from the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine addiction. We look forward to working closely with the Governor and General Assembly on a permanent and adequate solution to this public health emergency.”