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NAQC Newsroom: Tobacco Control

Guam to Increase Tobacco Tax

Sunday, February 14, 2010  
A law that will go into effect in April will increase Guam's tax on tobacco from $1 per pack of cigarettes to $3, a move that is hoped to raise additional money for the government's Healthy Futures Fund while also reducing the number of smokers on island.

Guam had the highest smoking rate in the nation, according to data compiled from 1998 to 2007. While the median rate across the United States is about 20 percent, about 33 percent of Guam residents smoke cigarettes -- about one in every three people, according to a study published last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A recent report by the Cancer Action Network, said that increasing the national tax on cigarettes would raise more than $9 billion for states, while also prompting about 1.2 million smokers to quit.

Peter Cruz, of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said he is hopeful that the increased cost of tobacco products will result in fewer smokers in Guam. "It'll be interesting to see," he said.

Cruz leads tobacco cessation classes on a regular basis. His agency also provides information about how to quit smoking and conducts regular outreach programs at schools and elsewhere. Requests for presentations can be made at the agency's Web site.

If the island's elected officials are serious about efforts to get more Guam smokers to kick the habit, they must do more than just increase the tax on tobacco products. They need to ensure that some of the additional money raised by the higher tax actually goes into prevention and cessation programs.

Lawmakers should talk to members of the medical community, especially those involved with tobacco prevention and cessation, about the resources needed to sustain and expand those programs. Then they should set up a fixed percentage of tobacco tax funds to be used to provide those resources.

Accessed: February 14, 2010

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