In November, South Dakota voters approved a $1 a pack cigarette tax. According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, $5 million in new revenue has already been appreciated from the tax, and it is estimated the total yearly increase in revenue will amount to as much as $40 million.
The new law calls for putting most of the additional $40 million in cigarette tax revenue toward property tax relief, school funding and health-related programs. However, the Leader states, this first $5 million already in hand is going for anti-tobacco programs.
Among the state’s goals are to reduce the percentage of middle and high school students, pregnant females and Native American adults who smoke. The Leader reports that some of the money will be spent on targeting these groups of people with messages about the dangers of smoking and other tobacco use.
Favian Kennedy is a tobacco control specialist with the Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board in Rapid City. He said the goal to cut the Native American smoking rate from 44 percent to 33 percent by 2008 is a worthy one. “We know we’re an at-risk group, he said. “South Dakota really is doing a pretty good job of working with Native groups on tobacco control. They’re one of the first actual agencies to do native-specific programs.”
According to the American Lung Association, smoking rates are the highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives (32 percent), compared to 21.9 percent among non-Hispanic whites. Some reasons given are that Native American lands are not subject to state laws prohibiting the sale and promotion of tobacco products to minors; neither are their taxes on tobacco products. The American Lung Association also reports that as smoking declined among non-Hispanic whites, tobacco companies focused their advertising on Native Americans by funding cultural events and promoting a positive image of tobacco use.
Another recipient of the new revenue will be Quitline, a telephone help line for people who want to quit smoking. According to the Leader, tax revenue will pay for three opportunities to quit by using the Quitline program. Quitline involves an initial contact, access to medication and other aids, mandatory counseling and follow-up contacts. Currently, smokers who want to quit are allowed just two free chances with Quitline, plus payment of half the cost of medications or other cessation aids.
Not everyone is supportive of the way the new revenue will be used. Dem. Rep. Garry Moore’s company distributes cigarettes. He claims to be concerned about how the money will be spent. “In the past, the Legislature has appropriated money for tobacco cessation, and they had difficulty using it all,” he said. “Funny how we can come up with overkill on this, an enormous percentage increase, but cannot find money to provide a larger increase in education funding.” According to the Leader, Moore also believes the revenue will help drug companies and advertising businesses, something he opposes.
Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Fight against tobacco gets $5 million; http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070619/NEWS/706190323/1001
American Lung Association