Nebraska state senators will again consider raising the tax on tobacco when the legislative session begins next week. The proposal sponsored by Sen. Sara Howard (D-Omaha) would increase the tax on tobacco by $1.50 per pack.
Revenue is earmarked for the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund and the General Fund with $2.4 Million would go directly to tobacco prevention and control programs.
“Tobacco is very addictive and it’s not easy to quit all the time, but it is possible to quit,” Amanda Mortensen, Tobacco-Free Nebraska program manager, tells Nebraska Radio Network.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 17.1 percent of Nebraska’s adults use tobacco, while the state’s most recent adult tobacco survey shows 73% of adult Nebraska smokers began smoking before age 18.
Mortensen says prevention efforts aimed at kids are important, pointing out that e-cigarettes and vaping are just as dangerous.
“No nicotine is safe for teens, or pregnant women,” she explains. “We also know that’s not a water vapor that’s coming out. It’s an aerosol that does contain particulates, so people should avoid exposure to that, similar to how they should be avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke.”
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reports Nebraska spends about 2.6 percent of its tobacco settlement fund on anti-smoking programs.
The proposal to raise the tax to $2.14 per pack received just one hearing during the last legislative session.
While supporters out-numbered opponents, Governor Pete Ricketts thinks it’s a bad idea.
“I’m not going to be supportive of raising the taxes on cigarettes or raising anybody else’s taxes,” Ricketts told a caller during his December call-in show.
Retail groups testified against the bill last session. They argue it will cost them business and send buyers across the border where tobacco taxes would be lower.
AUDIO: Mike Loizzo reports [:42]