Gov. John Kasich wants to raise taxes on cigarettes by 60 cents to pay for an income tax cut, but anti-tobacco groups think the tax hike could be bigger and the money used to fund prevention and cessation.
A new poll released by the groups finds that 63 percent of Ohio voters support raising the cigarette tax by $1 per pack to help fund programs to reduce tobacco use. Just 35 percent of voters oppose increasing the cigarette tax. The poll finds voters from across the state and across virtually every demographic group support increasing the cigarette tax to help fund tobacco prevention programs.
"You'll see people stopping smoking, and we'll see kids not starting where you won't see that very much with the two 30-cent increases and no funding," said Shelly Kiser with the American Lung Association.
Support for increasing the tax comes from a broad-based coalition of voters, including 61 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Democrats, and 64 percent of unaffiliated voters.
When given a choice between the groups' proposal and that of Gov. Kasich, 56 percent of voters support a $1 increase in the cigarette tax with part of the revenue dedicated to tobacco prevention compared with 26 percent for a smaller tax increase with none of the money dedicated to the tobacco prevention.
The poll also found 67 percent support for increasing taxes on other tobacco products at the same rate as cigarettes.
"The rates of tax on these other tobacco products are so low that there's nothing to discourage them from using, and they can easily switch to using those when cigarettes are not available," Kiser said.
The poll found that 72 percent of voters favor efforts to reduce the income tax rate, with 65 percent supporting a tobacco tax increase to pay for it. Raising the tobacco tax to pay for income tax reductions has greater support among voters than two other options presented - 43 percent supported increasing taxes on oil and natural gas drilling, known as fracking, and 39 percent favored increasing the Commercial Activities Tax.
The statewide survey of 800 general election voters was released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The poll was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Kiser said that health care costs related to tobacco cost the average Ohio family about $600 a year.
Ohio's current cigarette tax is $1.25 per pack, which ranks 29th in the nation and is below the state average of $1.53 per pack.
35 percent of those polled opposed raising the cigarette tax. Opponents of the plan argue that increasing Ohio's tobacco tax would simply force people to drive to other states with lower tax rates to buy their cigarettes.