Legislators propose increase tax on cigarettes to fund scholarships

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The California State Legislature is debating the legality of adding a dollar to the excise tax on each pack of cigarettes sold in Calif.  Legislators recently released a statement announcing that they are considering the passage of this amendment in order to increase funding for student financial aid at universities and for cancer research programs.

This measure is projected to raise $800 million in revenue if passed, most of which will be allocated to a trust made by the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC).  CSAC is an organization that provides financial aid to students attending a University of California or a California State University.  The proposal will be a part of the Nov. 2014 ballot and, if passed, will go into effect in 2015.

“I believe that the bill proposed by the legislature will discourage smoking because the price of cigarettes will be too high for many people to want to buy them,” said senior Arine Costanian.  “Down the line, I think this will help increase the overall health of the Calif. population in addition to helping students pay for college.”

According to the Boston Globe, if passed, this legislation will translate into 46,000 fewer future kid smokers and 25,000 fewer adult smokers.  This could result in a decrease in government spending on programs to treat tobacco-related illnesses such as lung cancer.

This senate debate follows a failed attempt to raise the tobacco tax in 2012.  However, state officials including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Democratic strategist Jason Kinney believe that the low turnout of voters in the 2012 election caused the negative result.  Currently, Calif.’s cigarette excise tax is 87 cents per pack, funding research programs for diseases caused by tobacco use and generating revenue for early childhood education programs.

Senate officials state that the long-term fiscal results of the proposed excise tax are undeterminable at this point. However, they hope that if the tax is passed, the benefits will outweigh the costs. •

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