Charleston, WV - The Democratic Caucus in the House of Delegates has proposed legislation that will fully fund PEIA and avert the draconian cuts to the health insurance benefits of our state’s teachers, law enforcement officers, public employees and retirees.
The House Democratic Caucus plan includes a tax that applies to all tobacco products and includes for the first time electronic cigarettes. The initial cigarette tax increase is a $1 per pack increase with a 10 cents a year increase each year following until 2021, for an overall $1.50 per pack increase on cigarettes.
Research provided by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network states that “a significant increase in the tax on tobacco products, and subsequently the price, is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use and its associated public health harms and health care costs, while also generating considerable new revenue”.
Raising the barrier to entry to begin or continue smoking will make West Virginians healthier,” Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) stated. “An increase in the tobacco tax will result in fewer smokers, which will lead to fewer smoking-related health issues, which result in lower healthcare costs associated with those illnesses.”
“West Virginia also has a high number of women who smoke during their pregnancies,” Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh) added. “This plan will hopefully decrease those numbers and encourage healthier mothers and babies.”
In addition to the positive health impact from increasing the tobacco tax, the tax will bring an additional $120 to $125 million in revenue to the state which will sufficiently fund PEIA and prevent the proposed benefit cuts for the next plan year from being enacted.
The plan includes provisions to direct any additional monies from this increase as well as from taxes imposed on smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes to substance abuse and drug prevention programs which are sorely needed across our state. This newly-created special Drug Addiction Interdiction and Treatment Fund would be used to assist persons with drug addiction treatment and divert those charged with drug use crimes into treatment facilities away from the criminal justice process. The diversion program will be designed to provide long term care and in-community supervision of these individuals until they are drug free.
House Bill 4564, Relating to the taxing certain tobacco products, was introduced on Tuesday, February 16, and referred to the Health and Human Resources Committee with a second reference to the Committee on Finance. The legislation is sponsored by Delegates Tim Miley (D-Harrison), Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha), Mick Bates (D-Raleigh), Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha), Rick Moye (D-Raleigh), Don Perdue (D-Wayne), Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), Denise Campbell (D-Randolph), Frank Blackwell (D-Wyoming), David Perry (D-Fayette) and Stephen Skinner (D-Jefferson).