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OFFICE OF VINCENT C.

GRAY
CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON HEALTH
COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Takiyah “T.N.” Tate


MAY 15, 2018 ttate@dccouncil.us ● 202.741.0919

COUNCILMEMBER VINCENT C. GRAY’S STATEMENT ON CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE


“IT’S THE SMART CHOICE FOR D.C.”

When the D.C. Council meets on Tuesday, May 15, one of the District’s biggest public health
issues will hang in the balance, smoking cessation. At that meeting, I plan to offer an
amendment to the 2019 Budget Support Act that would increase the District’s cigarette tax by
$2 per pack; direct at least 10 percent of the revenue to tobacco cessation and prevention
efforts; and provide necessary dollars for other critical needs in the city.
It may surprise some that a simple, common-sense proposal like this has the potential to
forever alter the public health landscape in the District, but it most assuredly does. Research
has proven that significantly increasing the price of cigarettes and using a portion of that
revenue to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs can help break the cycle of
tobacco dependence. This is especially important when one considers the District currently
spends $26.70 on smoking-related health costs and lost productivity for every pack of cigarette
sold.
However, the problem of tobacco addiction goes well beyond the financial burden that the
District faces. There are moral reasons as well.

• About 12.5 percent of DC high school students smoke, and each year 100 DC kids under
age 18 become new daily smokers.
• Smoking kills 800 DC adults each year. Moreover, at today’s rate, 7,000 DC kids alive
today will die prematurely from smoking.
• Tobacco use perpetuates health disparities, as evidenced by the smoking rates among
African Americans (20.3 percent) and LGBTQ (34 percent) residents. Smoking rates also
vary widely by ward. The rates in Ward 7 (27.2 percent) and Ward 8 (28.4 percent) are
much higher than elsewhere in DC, especially Wards 2 and 3 where less than 10 percent
of residents’ smoke.

If passed, this proposal will prevent 2,400 of our youth from becoming adults who smoke and
help 5,300 adults quit smoking. Moreover, it will reduce the rates of cancer and heart disease
and countless other smoking-related diseases.
Because a tobacco-specific tax helps to decrease consumption, the District’s overall business
health would get a substantial boost through reductions in health insurance premium costs,
reductions in days of lost work, and redistribution of money previously spent on tobacco
products into other sectors of the economy.
The DC Council and Mayor have demonstrated their commitment to addressing the problem of
tobacco in the past. Less than 2 years ago, we updated the District’s smoke-free law to include
e-cigarettes and prohibited the use of tobacco products at organized sporting events in the
District. We also passed a law prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to those under 21, but
that policy was never enacted due to lack of funding. So, the passage of this cigarette tax
increase could provide the funding necessary for implementing the tobacco 21 law, enforcing
tobacco control laws, and further cementing the district as a nationwide leader in efforts to
protect kids from tobacco and helping adults who smoke quit.
To its credit, on October 1, 2014, CVS, one of the larger retailers both locally and nationally,
made the decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.. I have heard no
complaints about the CVS decision.
It’s time for the DC Council to take another modest, common-sense step to help boost the
health of our constituents as well as our economic well-being. We could be doing a better job
creating the conditions that will protect kids from a lifetime of guilt and regret while helping
adults get the tools they need to improve their security and their productivity. Continuing to
invest in simple and proven ways to reduce the toll of the tobacco epidemic makes sense for
the District.

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