Health care advocates are calling for Kansas lawmakers to increase tobacco taxes to help fill a budget hole of more than $400 million. Dr. Roy Jensen, with the University of Kansas Cancer Center, says the governor’s proposed tax increase on tobacco could cause thousands of Kansans to quit or never start smoking. He says that could save the state a billion dollars in health care costs in the coming decades and possibly prevent up to 15,000 deaths.
“People try to cast this initiative solely as a budget Band-Aid. I would like to march 15,000 people into this Capitol and show them this is not just a budget Band-Aid,” says Jensen.
Governor Sam Brownback has proposed increasing cigarette taxes by $1.50 per pack. He’s also proposed increasing other tobacco taxes and alcohol taxes. So far, lawmakers have not shown much interest in the proposals, but they could become part of a larger tax plan. Some critics of raising tobacco taxes call the move “regressive” and say it could drive shoppers across the border to Missouri.
This story comes from Kansas Public Radio.