A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Close the Tobacco “Candy” Loophole

Close the Tobacco “Candy” Loophole

May 24, 2010

Today's guest blog post is by HCFA partner Russet Morrow Breslau, Executive Director, Tobacco Free Mass:

In 2008, the state increased the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, to a total of $2.51. But the tax on kid-friendly, inexpensive other tobacco products (OTP) remained level. And tobacco products like fruit-flavored chew, minty tobacco suckers, and candy-flavored cheap cigars are the latest way kids are getting addicted to nicotine. Is it any wonder that Massachusetts’ youth are now using these products at a higher rate than cigarettes?

The public health ramifications of not equalizing prices on all tobacco products are severe and can be addressed by increasing OTP excise taxes to the same rate applied to cigarettes. Sen. James Eldridge filed an amendment (#31) to this week's Senate budget to close loopholes on OTP and dedicated the revenue – estimated at $10.5 million annually – to much-needed tobacco prevention and cessation programming.

It’s not too late for your Senator to sign on! You can help by calling your Senator and asking him or her to co-sponsor Sen. Eldridge’s amendment #31, which will close loopholes to prevent kids from ever starting to use tobacco.

[We would add that another important amendment, #608 from Sen. Richard Moore, would require all Commonwealth Care plans to offer comprehensive smoking cessation benefits. These benefits have been extraordinarily successful in the MassHealth program, and should be replicated in Commonwealth Care.]