Ted Files Milestone Public Health Initiative

Tallahassee, FL – Seeking to dramatically improve both Florida’s healthcare system and the state’s financial outlook, Senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) today filed legislation that will make Florida the nation’s leader in fighting cancer.

Senate Bill 1840 is intended to curb smoking and reduce the incidence of tobacco-related illnesses by levying a dollar a pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax. Currently at 33.9 cents per pack, Florida’s tax is the 6th lowest in the nation.

The increased revenue – estimated at more than half a billion dollars annually – will in turn prime the pump of the state’s lagging economy by investing the proceeds generated by the tax increase in biomedical research including cancer research and related infrastructure projects.

“This is first and foremost a public health bill,” said Deutch. “Yet it also provides us an opportunity to leverage Florida’s growing biotech sector to make Florida a national leader in fighting the diseases directly related to the use of tobacco.  These clean, high-wage jobs are what Florida needs right now.”

While the Boca Raton senator’s primary objective is to persuade more Floridians to “kick the habit” and deter others from starting, he acknowledged the Legislature’s growing interest in effectively targeting the revenue generated from this landmark legislation in light of the state’s dire fiscal straits.

“Economists have estimated that a dollar increase in the cigarette tax would generate more than $600 million in net revenue, even after the recent federal cigarette tax hike of 61.6-cents” Deutch said. “This money can and should help save lives by protecting the Medically Needy and the Medicaid Aged and Disabled Programs while giving the Legislature an excellent opportunity to provide critically needed funding for our state’s challenged medical capacity and healthcare infrastructure.”

Deutch announced his action today on the steps of the Old Capitol. He was joined by 500 volunteers from the American Cancer Society.  The American Cancer Society and other leading health organizations back the senator’s proposal, citing the likelihood of significant reductions in adult smokers, and even greater prevention results by deterring kids from tobacco use.

Dr. Michael Kasper, a Boca Raton oncologist applauded Deutch’s efforts. “Tobacco use causes nearly one-third of all cancer deaths,” Kasper said.  “This bill would prevent so many of these deaths that are completely unnecessary.”