Smoke signals: Newly proposed bill will make smoking even more expensive, save the children

via thefrisky.com Here in Bloggytown, we have a curious history with ignited inhalations of the sweet tobacc-y nicotine stench. There was that time when we were 8 and we think we got addicted after stealing packs from our mom's boyfriend (along with his Playboys!); there was that one boyfriend who would tell us in our 20s that "I'm not sure I can date you if you don't smoke," a sentence that would set our self-esteem alight for months; there were the browned yellow walls of our recently concluded 11-year marriage inside a cigarette filter bungalow; and then there was the post-traumatic "fuck it, I'm quitting, what do I have to lose?" moment last summer that seems to have stuck. We get it. Smoking is bad and expensive. Even Will's Pub is smoke free now. Well, following this bit of news from the enactment of the Affordable Care Act last year, it seemed that we had alas chosen wisely (which we already knew).
As part of the Affordable Care Act, smokers will face up to a 50 percent surcharge on health insurance rates. When the Health Insurance Marketplace opens Tuesday, people will be able to compare insurance plans, and they’ll be asked whether or not they smoke. A yes answer means paying more, which supporters say is only fair, given smokers incur more health costs. The state Department of Health said health care costs caused by smoking Floridians are about $6.3 billion a year, $1.2 billion of which is paid by Medicaid. Tobacco Free Florida figures show about 17 percent of Floridians are smokers, and 28,600 deaths a year in the state are caused by tobacco use.
COUGH! Anyway, today Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, threw the ashtray down just a little bit harder by proposing HB 507 ("Surcharge on Cigarettes"), which seeks to raise the cost of cigarettes in Florida by a full dollar; our cigarette tax is currently just $1.34, which places the state at No. 27 in the bilk-your-habit stakes. The logic is that the $838 million that the surcharge is expected to raise annually could be used to offset the rollback of the automotive fees (increased just four years ago, duh) that is designed to save Gov. Rick Scott's election via the poors. Also, it will discourage young ones – like we used to be – from smoking cigarettes while looking at their mom's boyfriend's Playboys with Bo Derek on the cover. HA! Here's the press release.

Representative Jim Waldman Proposes Legislation To Reduce Teen Smoking and Improve Florida’s Financial Health

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – To save lives and protect children, state Representative Jim Waldman (D-Coconut Creek) has filed House Bill 507 (Surcharge on Cigarettes) that will encourage smoking cessation and improve the state’s financial health.   Florida’s cigarette tax of $1.34 per pack is the 27th lowest in the nation. House Bill 507 would impose an additional $1 surcharge on each pack of cigarettes sold in Florida.   House Bill 507 specifies that funds raised by the surcharge, an estimated $838 million a year, are to be used to offset the costs of a proposed reduction in motor vehicle registration fees. Bipartisan legislation has been filed to rollback automobile registration charges that were imposed by the Legislature four years ago. In Florida and elsewhere, cigarette price increases have proven an effective strategy to improve public health and reduce youth smoking. In 2009, Representative Waldman successfully championed an increase in the state’s cigarette surcharge. As a result, according to American Cancer Society, there was a 27 percent decline in the number of smokers in Florida, with 500,000 people opting to kick the habit.   “Raising the cigarette tax is good health policy and a proven way to reduce smoking rates among adults and youth,” said Representative Waldman. “My goal is to stop teen smoking. I’m also pleased that House Bill 507 offers the additional benefit of helping Florida address the priorities of education, healthcare and other essential state services.”
   

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