Cruz Bill Would Raise Tax on Smokeless Tobacco Products to the Same Level as the Tax on Cigarettes

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Guam – Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz has introduced a bill to make tax rates on smokeless tobacco equal to cigarettes. The aim is to reduce consumption of all tobacco products and prevent the associated harm it causes..

The Senator points out that smokeless tobacco is used as a cheaper alternative to cigarettes, and the number of young people chewing tobacco has more than doubled in the last decade.

The Senator says that his Bill #206 is part of  his continued public health campaign to reduce tobacco use and ease the burden of related government-paid health care costs shouldered by taxpayers.

READ Bill #206 HERE

Senator Cruz hightlights data collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System which shows that the rate of smoking among adults in Guam has dropped from 31.2%  in 2001 to 25.8 percent in 2012, but the consumption of smokeless and other non-cigarette tobacco has increased, even among the youth.

READ Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey HERE

According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, in 2011, 7.7 percent of survey responders reported daily or regular use of smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, snuff or snus.

“If we don’t do everything we can, a new generation of tobacco users will be doomed to a life of addiction and associated harms—all the while leaving the taxpayer with the cost of their health care,” said Cruz. 

READ the news release below: 

(October 13, 2013 – Hagåtña) Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz has introduced legislation to equalize the tax rate on smokeless tobacco to that of cigarettes and break the trend of the consumption of smokeless tobacco as a cheaper alternative.  A container of smokeless tobacco is currently priced two to three dollars less than a pack of cigarettes.

Cruz’s new measure would increase the current tax rate on smokeless tobacco from fourteen dollars ($14.00) a pound to a new rate of forty dollars ($40.00), thus resolving the disparity in the prorated taxes for the quantities of tobacco products as packaged.  Under current law, a pack of 20 cigarettes is taxed $3 while a standard 1.2-ounce container of smokeless tobacco is taxed $1.05.

“Just as we are making significant progress in lowering the number of cigarette smokers in Guam, data shows that the number of young students who chew tobacco has more than doubled in the last decade,” said Cruz, who introduced Bill 206-32 (COR) last Friday.

Data collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System shows that the rate of smoking among adults in Guam has dropped from 31.2 percent in 2001 to 25.8 percent in 2012, but the consumption of smokeless and other non-cigarette tobacco has increased, even among the youth.  In 2011, 7.7 percent of survey responders reported daily or regular use of smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, snuff or snus.

While figures for 2013 are still forthcoming, adult smokeless tobacco use in Guam has more than doubled from 2009 to 2010.  According to the Guam Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, the rate of other tobacco use among both high school and middle school youth is increasing, with 14 percent of HS students reporting use in 2011, and continues to exceed national rates.

“If we don’t do everything we can, a new generation of tobacco users will be doomed to a life of addiction and associated harms—all the while leaving the taxpayer with the cost of their health care,” said Cruz.

The new legislation is part of Cruz’s continued public health campaign to reduce tobacco use and ease the burden of related government-paid health care costs shouldered by taxpayers.  Efforts in 2009 led to the enactment of Public Law 30-80, which increased the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and allocated new tax revenues to the Guam Cancer Trust Fund for the prevention and treatments of cancers.