On Saturday, smokers in California would have found themselves shelling out more for cigarettes, as the new tobacco policy passed by voters during the November 2016 election took effect.
Under the new law, cigarette taxes increased by $2 a pack, so smokers in the state now have to pay $2.87 per pack of cigarettes. This is over three times the 87-cent tax on tobacco before the elections, The Washington Times reports. It was also one of the country’s lowest tobacco taxes.
In a dramatic turn, with this new tax rate, the Golden State now has the ninth highest cigarette tax in the country. And as the US state with the greatest population, this increase will no doubt have a big effect on California’s income, as well as on the wallets of its smoking citizens.
A state tax map on the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids website shows that the three states bordering California now have significantly cheaper taxes on cigarettes per pack: $1.32 in Oregon, $1.80 in Nevada, and $2 in Arizona.
According to the state’s Public Health Department, while only one in nine adults in California are smokers, that comes up to around 3.1 million out of 39 million residents. The tax hike is then expected to bring in more than $1.4 billion in its first year of implementation alone, The Mercury News reports.
Most of the additional income has been earmarked for Medi-Cal, which provides health insurance for Californians who can’t afford it.
Proponents of the measure say that at least $3.5 billion a year should go to treating tobacco-related illnesses. The rest of the income is to support cancer research and fund smoking prevention campaigns.
Over one-third of voters ticked “no” on their ballots last election on the proposal to increase taxes, not just on cigarettes but on other tobacco products, as well. However, the majority won out and Proposition 56 was approved with 64% of the vote allowing it to pass.