Letter: Support tobacco tax hike | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Support tobacco tax hike

Colorado voters are being asked to make several important choices, including voting on Amendment 72 to increase the tax on cigarettes and tobacco products in the state. Mountain Family Health Centers is asking you to vote yes on this important initiative.

Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in Colorado and adds significant financial burden to the health care system and taxpayer-funded health programs. Based on significant evidence, the most effective way to reduce smoking is by increasing the tax on cigarettes and tobacco products. Amendment 72 raises the tax by $1.75 per pack of cigarettes and will prevent more than 34,000 kids from becoming smokers, save more than 20,000 lives, and more than $1.4 billion in future health care costs. In short, Amendment 72 will stop tobacco companies from getting more children and adults addicted to cigarettes for the rest of their lives.

This tax increase is expected to raise approximately $315 million in the first full year to provide care for veterans, fund important smoking-related illness research, increase access to care in rural and underserved areas of the state, amplify tobacco cessation efforts, and help increase access to early intervention and treatment programs for children and adolescents suffering from mental illness.

These are the reasons why Mountain Family Health Centers is joining Children’s Hospital Colorado, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and more than 100 other organizations and individuals in support of Amendment 72.

Of the $315 million mentioned above, approximately $34 million will go toward a grants program for safety-net clinics across Colorado (including Mountain Family Health Centers) to modernize care through upgrading facilities and health information technology systems. In addition, approximately $17 million will go toward the Colorado Health Service Corps, Dental Loan Repayment programs and provider training, which will help Mountain Family Health Centers recruit and retain much needed providers.

It has been 12 years since Colorado has raised the tax on tobacco products, and 2015 was the first year that cigarette sales increased since the last tobacco tax was passed in 2004. Voting Yes on Amendment 72 is an incredibly important step to reducing smoking rates and supporting important programs that help care for our state’s most vulnerable populations who are most harmed by smoking.

Ross Brooks
CEO, Mountain Family Health Centers