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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Youth Win Big with a Tobacco Excise Tax

By Terrence Robbins


August 02, 2015
Sunday PM

Ketchikan's leaders on the Borough Assembly and City Council have done a courageous and commendable job of addressing our youth tobacco use crisis with a proposed tobacco excise tax. The Municipalities of Anchorage (1991), Fairbanks (1993), Juneau (2003), and Sitka (2006) have collected similar excise taxes on nicotine products for years and the effectiveness is evidenced through much lower youth tobacco usage rates than Ketchikan's. Not coincidentally, each of these cities also reported malignant cancer mortality rates 29-104% lower than Ketchikan's exceptionally high rate. (AK Bureau of Vital Statistics Report 2012). Our representatives recognize that nicotine is an addictive and dangerous drug, especially to developing brains. They know that 90% of all adult smokers became addicted to nicotine before age 18, and 99% became addicted before they turned 26 (2014 Surgeon General s Report). They understand that youth are price-sensitive, meaning that youth have less disposable income to spend on tobacco than a typical adult has, and so, when retail prices increase, fewer kids start to use, or continue to use, addictive nicotine products.

So why $3.00 per pack in Ketchikan? Data from studies world-wide consistently show that for each 10% increase in the retail price per pack of cigarettes, youth usage rates drop by 7%. Sadly, 21% of Ketchikan's youth report current cigarette use, more than 66% higher than the Alaska average rate of 13% (2011 YRBS). To compare, Marlboro cigarette prices in Ketchikan are very low at $6.00 per pack versus $10.00-12.00 per pack in Anchorage and Juneau, where the local excise taxes are $2.39 & $3.00 per pack, respectively.

The purpose of the equivalent 75% excise tax on the wholesale cost of other tobacco products is to avoid pushing youth cigarette users over to less-expensive, untaxed, alternative nicotine products.

Terrence Robbins
Drug-Free Communities Project Coordinator
Ketchikan Wellness Coalition
Ketchikan, Alaska


About: "I work for the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition as the Drug-Free Communities Project Coordinator. This SAMHSA grant project has three primary goals for Ketchikan: Increase the number of Ketchikan's youth who choose not to drink alcohol, choose not to use nicotine products, and choose not to use marijuana in any form. "

Received August 01, 2015 - Published August 02, 2015

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