With a $4.6 billion state budget shortfall and looming threats of cuts to vital state children's programs, it is disheartening that legislators are not considering a meaningful increase to our state's tobacco tax.
Earlier this year, Gov. Beverly Perdue proposed a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase. That would raise more than $330 million in the first year, prevent youth from smoking and save lives. But this proposal has faded.
A meaningful cigarette tax increase's most important impact is to curb youth smoking. A $1 increase would prevent 86,800 N.C. children from lighting up and avoid 43,300 future smoking-related deaths. Ninety percent of addicted adult smokers began smoking before age 18.
It's been said that raising taxes during a down economy will place too much of a burden on our citizens. But the truth is that a cigarette tax only affects a portion of the population -- the 23 percent of individuals who have made the choice to smoke.
The cost of inaction should not be transferred to our children nor to taxpayers who shoulder the burden of the nearly $2.5 billion in health care costs resulting from smoking-related illnesses. Legislators should put a $1 tax increase back on the table.
David T. Tayloe Jr., M.D.
American Academy of Pediatrics