A panel of health experts, physicians, and advocates came together to promote a provision in Gov. John Kasich's mid-budget review proposal that would increase tobacco taxes.
Tobacco taxes would go up by 60 cents over two years under the proposal. That includes not just cigarettes but also cigars and, for the first time, e-cigarettes. It also includes allocating $26.9 million from the tobacco settlement to the Ohio Department of Health to support a five-year plan for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
"Almost 1 in 4 Ohioans are smokers." said Dr. Daniel Neides, the Medical Director of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. "At a time when the national rate is decreasing, Ohio’s rate of smoking is increasing. We must turn the tide on this issue. Governor Kasich’s proposal is a good first step."
Supporters of the plan say it will mean fewer Ohioans will be smoking.
"If we do nothing, 259,000 Ohio kids currently under the age of 18 will die prematurely from smoking. That should not be an option," said Micah Berman, a Professor of Health Services Management and Policy at the College of Public Health & Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.
Opponents of the plan argue that it unfairly targets low-income Ohioans, something that Phillip Cole, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, disagrees with. He says it's a tax of choice.
"The state of Ohio has no duty to the low-income citizens or any other citizens to help them live an unhealthy lifestyle or to make it more affordable," he said.
Ohio's current cigarette tax is $1.25 per pack. It would go up to $1.85 under the plan.