Conference Committee slashes Tobacco Control Program even moreThe Wisconsin Senate early Friday passed its version of a state budget that raises taxes on smokers by $300 million, then slashes a successful program by 55 percent that is reducing youth smoking and helping smokers quit.
The Wisconsin Senate early Friday passed its version of a state budget that raises taxes on smokers by $300 million, then slashes a successful program by 55 percent that is reducing youth smoking and helping smokers quit.
Budget negotiators had already cut the program 40 percent – eight times more than the average cut for state agencies and programs. In secret negotiations again last night, Democrats who control the Legislature slashed another $5 million, leaving the program at only one-tenth of what the Centers for Disease Control recommends.
“Lawmakers also want to cut a half billion dollars from Medicaid – and tobacco-related diseases are the single most expensive cost to the Medicaid program,” said Maureen Busalacchi, executive director of SmokeFree Wisconsin. “So cutting the program that reduces smoking is not logical. How that math works is a mystery. Helping people quit and making sure kids don’t start– especially helping low-income smokers quit – saves live and it saves a lot of money over time.”
Higher cigarette taxes are an important tool to help people quit and reduce how many kids start the path to addiction, she said. “And we are pleased that there are higher taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, as we know it reduces initiation among children.
“But that’s just an incentive to quit. To help smokers end their addiction, the taxes must be accompanied by a strong program. The evidence for this is absolutely clear.”
“A tax increase on tobacco without an effective program to help people quit is just a tax increase that hurts low-income people most.’’