In the past three years, the cigarette tax has been hands-downs the most popular revenue-raising measure employed by state governments. This year alone, 14 states and the District of Columbia have increased their tobacco excise taxes. This trend is notable for two reasons. First, the cigarette tax is among the most regressive revenue sources used by states, falling disproportionately on the lowest-income families. Second, tobacco-tax advocates nationwide have emphasized the importance of using cigarette tax revenues to fund "smoking cessation" programs, designed to help at-risk populations quit smoking.

But, as a new report documents, the flood of new cigarette tax revenue is increasingly being diverted away from anti-cessation efforts, and is being used instead to patch budget deficits. The report, "A Broken Promise to our Children," finds that in fiscal year 2010, states will spend just 2.3 percent of their tobacco tax revenues on cessation efforts, and that states have cut their funding for cessation efforts by more than 15 percent in the past year alone. The report also finds that more than 40 states are funding tobacco prevention efforts at less than half of the levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report's findings confirm what many observers knew already: in many states, lawmakers are enacting cigarette tax hikes not for the laudable anti-smoking efforts promoted by the CDC and others, but because they view it as the easiest way to raise short-term revenues while papering over the disturbing long-term structural flaws in state tax systems. Requiring lawmakers to live up to their professed anti-smoking goals will also help to reveal the growing need for real, progressive tax reform at the state level.

Thank you for visiting Tax Justice Blog. CTJ and ITEP staff will soon retire this domain. But ITEP staff are still blogging! You can find the same level of insight and analysis and select Tax Justice Blog archives at our new blog, http://www.justtaxesblog.org/

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