Tobacco tax lowered Md.'s smoking rate

March 18, 2010

In Wednesday's column disparaging Maryland's life-saving 2007 tobacco tax increase ("Did cigarette tax increase do more harm than good?" March 17), Marc Kilmer neglects to mention that this increase, along with other policies such as Maryland's smoke free workplace law also encated in 2007, have combined to make Maryland's smoking rate the fourth lowest in the nation, saving thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been lost because of tobacco caused illness and death.

Like the tobacco companies and other critics of tobacco tax increases, Mr. Kilmer wrongly asserts that the drop in tobacco sales in Maryland after the tax went up was caused by people buying their tobacco in other states and that the tax did not bring in as much as was expected. In 2008, when tobacco taxes were increased in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, cigarette sales in those three states dropped by 108 million packs. At the same time, in the three neighboring states that did not raise their cigarette taxes, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, cigarette sales went up by only 37 million packs. Therefore, the vast majority of the net drop in cigarette sales in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, was from people smoking less.

The one dollar tobacco tax increase also brought into Maryland state coffers an additional $144 million in revenue, which was almost precisely what we in the public health community estimated based on an analysis by the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids. And, this money was used to help fund health care expansion for over 100,000 Maryland parents and children, which brought Maryland from 44th in the nation in health care for adults to 16th.

Plainly, Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Maryland General Assembly can be very proud of the success of the 2007 tobacco tax increase, and we look forward to working with them very soon to raise that tax again in order to keep reducing smoking and continuing to expand health care in Maryland.

Vincent DeMarco, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.

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