Amendment 35 |

Amendment 35

Summit Daily file photo/Julie SutorSmokers in Summit County could pay more per pack if Amendment 35 passes on Nov. 2.

This is a proposal to increase the taxes on tobacco products sold in the state to help fund children’s medical care, cancer prevention, anti-smoking programs and treatment and other health problems. This tax is expected to raise $175 million per year.

Proponents says it will help offset the cost of tobacco and smoking-related health issues that are now paid by non-smokers. Opponents decry the additional cost of the measure.

Smokers will be forking over a lot more cash to purchase cigarettes if voters approve Amendment 35 this Nov. 2.

The proposed citizen’s amendment will add 3.2 cents a cigarette ” or 64 cents a pack ” to the cost of smokes. Currently, Colorado smokers pay 20 cents tax on a pack of cigarettes ” the second lowest in the nation next to Kentucky. The average is 78 cents nationwide.

The estimated $175 million this would raise would provide health insurance for Colorado kids and families, support health centers that serve uninsured and low-income patients, restore tobacco prevention and cessation programs, fund prevention, early detection and treatment of heart and lung diseases and cancer and maintain support for local governments, the state’s old age pension fund and Colorado’s general fund.

“We got a number ” how about that?” said Don Parsons of SmokeFree Summit, the group that successfully brought about smoke-free workplaces throughout the county.

Citizens for a Healthier Colorado (CHC) submitted more than 110,000 signatures on July 29; this week, the Secretary of State notified the organization that they had obtained enough valid signatures ” 86,000 ” to get it on the ballot.

The battle is far from over.

“We anticipate a significant campaign from the tobacco interests to oppose this,” Parsons said. “They’re probably going to pull out the big guns.”

Initial polling, however, suggests voter approval will hover around 70 percent.

Parsons said the implementation of such a tax will have three advantages. It will deter people from starting smoking, encourage others to quit and help pay for some of the health implications caused by tobacco use.

For example, California implemented higher tobacco taxes and counter-

advertising campaigns and brought its teen smoking rate to 19 percent from 35 percent.

Even if the CHC and others are able to defeat the tobacco industry, it faces another hurdle in the governor’s office. There awaits House Bill 1455, an emergency measure passed in the last two days of the last legislative assembly.

According to Parsons, that measure will allow the state to take the additional money garnered by the tobacco tax and offset the amount of money the state gives to various programs. For example, if the tax were to raise $100 million for Medicaid, HB 1455 would let legislators direct $10 million worth of state funds from Medicaid to other programs.

Parsons said an estimated $25 million would be redirected from Medicaid, the Basic Child Health Plan (for those who are uninsured but don’t qualify for Medicaid), community health centers and tobacco cessation programs.

“This was meant to enhance those programs,” he said. “It’s very ill advised.”

” Jane Stebbins

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