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Oregon anti-smoking advocates tout big cigarette tax hike on the fall ballot

Smoking cigarette
KTVZ file

Goal: Get more to quit, or not start; includes 65% tax on vaping products

By Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Network

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon would have the highest tax on a pack of cigarettes on the West Coast if a ballot measure passes in November. Anti-smoking advocates are hoping increasing the tax by $2 from its current rate of $1.33 will get more smokers to consider quitting.

Kay Graven is the former lead ambassador in Oregon for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. She said she began her smoking-prevention advocacy work after her father, a lifelong smoker, died in 2004.

"I don't think my dad would have started smoking if the cost was so high. They were very financially oriented, and so I think that could have had an impact on him," Graven said.

Oregon currently has the 32nd-highest cigarette tax in the country. Washington state and California have the 8th- and 9th-highest taxes, respectively. In February, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network committed $50,000 to the measure's campaign.

Owners of shops that sell cigarettes have voiced opposition to the measure, saying it could kill their businesses.

The measure also includes a 65% tax on vaping products. It would be the first tax on electronic cigarettes in the state. According to an Oregon Health Authority survey, youth use of e-cigarettes increased 80% between 2017 and 2019.

Graven said she started smoking cigarettes when she was 16 and quit in her 30s. If she were to start smoking as a young person today, she said, it would probably be e-cigarettes, which is why this tax is so important.

"E-cigarettes would have been a lot more attractive to me, because they don't smell so bad. It's easy to hide," she said. "Cigarettes were not very easy to hide, even though I found a way."

Ten percent of funds from the tax would go toward health care and tobacco-control programs. It's estimated the measure would raise $160 million a year and save more than $1 billion in long-term health-care services, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Election / News / Oregon-Northwest

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      1. Thank you. Vaping is the cleanest way to inhale medicine. Don’t get me wrong, there are some bad vape users out there but for the most part vaping whatever you choose is the least harmful.

    1. Chewing tobacco should have a 75% hike and cigarettes should have a 100% hike. Chew users spit everywhere spreading germs and disease. Smokers drop their butts on the ground all the time, starting fires and property damage.

  1. Statistics say that the lower income smoke more than higher income folks, so my question is, why put more burden on those that choose to use tabacco? Tax abortions at an unlimited tax.

  2. What a disgusting way for greedy people to get more tax money from the poorest of folks. Hopefully the voters see that and these supporters end up in the gutter where garbage belongs.

  3. Whatever…. the government could care less about trying to get people to quit smoking, the proof is in the ballot that says only 10% of the funds will go to healthcare/tobacco programs…. The only thing that matters is the increase in revenue to them.

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