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Md.'s tobacco, alcohol tax increases are saving lives [Letter]

We at the Maryland Health Care For All Coalition, representing hundreds of faith, community, labor, business and health care groups from across Maryland, hope that when Attorney General Doug Gansler and the Republican candidates for governor criticize the "40 new taxes" enacted under the O'Malley administration they are not including in their criticism the life saving tobacco and alcohol tax increases approved in 2007, 2011 and 2012. The one-dollar per pack cigarette tax increase enacted in 2007, which Attorney General Gansler supported, has helped to reduce cigarette smoking by 32 percent in Maryland, almost double the national average, and by 40 percent among teens. This has saved tens of thousands of Marylanders from early, preventable tobacco caused deaths. And, the money raised by this tobacco tax increase has funded health care coverage for over 100,000 lower income parents.

According to top national experts, the alcohol tax increase enacted in 2011 is likely to have reduced underage and excessive alcohol use and related negative consequences across the state. The money raised by the alcohol tax increase has been funding both health care needs as well as helping people with developmental disabilities, mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions.

Finally, in 2012, we increased for the first time in many years the tax on little cigars and smokeless tobacco, which is doing much to deter young people from becoming addicted to these deadly products.

Maryland has made great public health progress since 2007 by increasing tobacco and alcohol taxes. We hope that every candidate for governor will make clear that they will not roll back this progress. We hope to work closely with the new governor and General Assembly to build on this progress to achieve our common goal of a more healthy Maryland for all our people.

Vincent DeMarco, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, Inc.

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