Understanding the Public Health Benefits of Proposition 56
Raising the tobacco tax will save lives by keeping cigarettes and e-cigarettes out of our children’s hands. It will also fund lifesaving programs to prevent smoking, improve healthcare, and research cures for cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. The money will also go to Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for low-income Californians. Opponents claim the revenue would be a “tax hike grab” by insurance companies and other special interests.
Reduces Tobacco Use
Proposition 56 is an initiative approved by voters in California to increase the state tax on cigarettes, other tobacco products, and electronic smoking devices containing nicotine. The revenue raised will be used primarily to fund existing healthcare programs, with some funds going toward tobacco use prevention and research. The cigarette tax will be increased by $2 per pack, with similar increases on other tobacco products and electronic smoking devices. Researchers have found that California proposition 56 may reduce cigarette use, particularly among low-income smokers, compared to smokers who did not vote on Proposition 56. This reduction may be due to a combination of factors. For one, a higher price for cigarettes and other tobacco products can compete with the innate craving for a cigarette. This may help light, occasional smokers to quit.
Additionally, the high price of cigarettes and other tobacco products can make purchasing the same quantity of these items more challenging. According to a study, this could reduce consumption. Another finding from this study is that fewer Californians were using cigarette products in the month following the passage of Prop 56, suggesting that it was effective in reducing cigarette use. This decline was seen across a range of racial and ethnic groups. The newest funding will be earmarked for Medi-Cal, which provides health care to low-income Californians. The money would cover programs such as family planning, women’s health services, dental care, physician and other healthcare costs, development and trauma screenings, and non-emergency medical transportation. Unlike past attempts to raise taxes on Tobacco, this tax will not increase total state healthcare spending. Instead, it will redirect the tax to backfill programs funded through earlier tobacco taxes.
Increases Funding for Health Care
California could become the first state in the nation to enact universal healthcare coverage. The Proposition 56 funding increases are targeted to improve access and quality of care for low-income patients in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The most significant portion of these funds – over $500 million with an additional $500 million federal match – is dedicated to increasing provider payments in Medi-Cal, which serves one-third of the state’s population and half its children so that more patients can access the care they need. These funds are distributed to network providers who serve Medi-Cal beneficiaries through policy guidance issued by the Department of Health Care Services. In addition, Proposition 56 funds are used to incentivize providers to meet specific measures and benchmarks aimed at improving the quality of care and reducing hospitalizations. Another part of Proposition 56 funding aims to improve the quality and availability of mental health care for Medi-Cal patients. These funds will fund mental health screenings and patient interventions and implement programs that support telehealth and mobile crisis intervention services for Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
Reduces Youth Smoking
Every state that has raised tobacco taxes in the past 15 years has seen significant declines in youth smoking rates. And the Surgeon General says that raising tobacco taxes is a proven way to reduce smoking in youth.
That’s why a broad coalition of hospitals, doctors, dentists, labor unions, healthcare providers, and nonprofit health advocacy organizations supports Prop 56. It’s the first time in California history that virtually all primary health care, business, and labor organizations have united to support a smoking cessation and public health initiative. The measure will save lives by reducing teen smoking, saving taxpayers money on the cost of tobacco-related diseases, and improving health care. And it will help keep kids from being hooked on cigarettes, which is critical to protecting a new generation of California children from the harm of addiction.
While it hasn’t been studied extensively, a growing body of evidence suggests that e-cigarettes may be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. They contain fewer toxicants and are safer for non-pregnant adults. However, the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are not well understood. Nevertheless, government policies taxing e-cigarettes can reduce the demand for traditional tobacco products and smoking rates.
Proponents of Prop 56 believe that increasing the state’s excise taxes on e-cigarettes will reduce the number of people who smoke and help prevent new kids from starting to smoke. Raising cigarette taxes has been shown to reduce smoking among youth in every state that has done so. In addition to the public health benefits of reducing tobacco use, the measure also increases funding for healthcare and other healthcare programs in California. These funds can be used for a range of important public health initiatives. These include preventing youth from starting to smoke, increasing access to preventive care, and reducing the cost of medical treatment.