Amendment 72 would more than triple the tax on a pack of cigarettes, from 84 cents a pack to $2.59. Taxes on other tobacco products would also rise, by 22 percent. If passed, the proposal would raise $315 million in its first year, paying for a variety of programs, including money for medical research into cancer prevention ($92 million), smoking prevention ($54 million), medical and health for 500,000 veterans ($48 million), and healthcare in rural and underserved areas ($34 million). Tens of millions would go to youth behavioral health services, student debt repayment for medical professionals serving rural and underserved areas and to current tobacco tax funded programs to make up for lost revenue due to lower tobacco use once the new tax is in place.
Backers of the ballot proposal, including public health advocates, say tobacco use is bad for your health. They cite a report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that more than 10 percent of Colorado children smoke; using more than 7 million packs a year. They also say most of the 5,000 Colorado residents who die from tobacco-related illnesses a year began smoking as teens.
Opponents of the measure include the tobacco industry and those who view it as both a massive tax increase and as bad tax policy. They argue the measure locks the new spending into Colorado’s constitution with no way to change it without another constitutional amendment and statewide vote. They also argue that less than 20 percent of the new tax would actually go to smoking prevention. They also say the measure would hit hardest those who can afford it the least, those who are low income.
A “yes” vote would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.84 to $2.59 per pack. A “no” vote would mean the tax would remain at $0.84.