Last year I wrote and passed legislation designed to reduce smoking in Florida and generate a billion dollars for health care programs and $50 million annually for cancer research, treatment and prevention. My legislation added a surcharge to every pack of cigarettes because every study shows that making cigarettes more expensive is not only the best way to encourage smokers to quit, but it's also best way to stop kids from ever taking up smoking in the first place.
Just this week, the Sun Sentinel reported that my legislation is making a real impact - with cigarette sales plummeting nearly 50% in some counties.
This is fantastic news - as it will not only save lives, but reduce the cost of care for millions of people as they avoid smoking-related illnesses.
If elected to Congress, I will use the same commonsense approach to legislation that allowed me to pass meaningful reforms in the State Senate. I will work hard each day to deliver results on the issues that matter to you most.
Please read the article below from Wednesday's Sun Sentinel.
With warm regards,
The South Florida Sun Sentinel
TALLAHASSEE - Cigarette sales have fallen sharply across Florida since a $1-a-pack tax increase took effect July 1, plunging nearly 50 percent in some counties.
Statewide, cigarette sales that regularly topped 100 million packs per month dropped to 73 million packs the month the tax became law. Since then, sales have inched back to around 78 million packs but remain well below prior levels.
To supporters, the sagging sales are evidence that the tax is meeting its public health objective: getting smokers to quit. Critics, however, say many people are simply buying their cigarettes elsewhere or switching to items that aren't subject to the higher tax, like small cigars.
The state charge on cigarettes is now $1.34, compared with the 34 cent tax that had been in place since 1990.
"It's working exactly the way it was designed to work. People are quitting," said Rep. Jim Waldman, D- Coconut Creek, a cigarette tax champion. "If I could, I'd raise it another dollar."
The state tax isn't the only factor influencing sales. A 62 cent federal cigarette tax increase also went into effect last April. And Florida is a national leader in job loss and home foreclosures, which
is surely pinching some of the state's 2.7 million smokers.
The most dramatic decline in cigarette sales was in Miami-Dade County. In June, the month before the higher tax took effect, retailers and convenience stores sold 8.9 million packs; a month later, 4.4 million.
Sales since rose to 6 million packs in September, the latest month for which county-by-county information is available.
Cigarettes sales in Broward and Palm Beach counties both saw a similar initial decline — evidence of sticker shock among smokers — and then recovered a bit. Broward's monthly clip of about 6.5 million packs now is below 6 million packs a month. Palm Beach County sales dropped from around 5.5 million packs to 4 million.
Despite the sharp falloff in cigarette sales, the new tax is bringing in as much revenue as expected. Anticipating a drop in smoking rates, state economists predicted the extra $1 charge would generate $958 million this year. Through October, the tax had brought in $325
million — on track to meet or slightly exceed the target.
While the cigarette tax was used to help plug Florida's budget shortfalls, Gov. Charlie Crist and legislators cited public health as the primary motivator.
Dramatically lower cigarette sales surely chip away at the state's smoking rate, which is 20 percent for adults. But how much is not clear.
There were 7,900 calls to the state's tobacco quit line in the three months after the new tax took effect, a 25 percent increase over the same period in 2008. But the state also beefed up its anti-smoking TV, radio and billboard advertising campaign, which helps account for the
higher call volume.
Josh Hafenbrack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-224-6214.