I am fortunate to be working with the New Mexico Public Health Association to advocate for passage of Senate Bill 197 — Tobacco Tax Increase, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez (D-Bernalillo County).
I want to address the big public-policy issues at stake with this bill.
Open your mind to imagine a new product has been created. You are a decision-maker with the power to decide whether to allow it to be sold to the public.
At public hearings, solid scientific studies are presented. The evidence includes:
- The product will kill more New Mexicans every year than will die directly from car crashes, alcohol, AIDS, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.
- Legalizing it will mean the premature death of 2,600 New Mexicans every year.
- The product will mean a premature death of 40,000 New Mexicans who are currently children; 4,300 of our precious children will try this deadly product every year, with 600 or more becoming addicted to it.
- A fiscal analysis shows an enormous cost to the state: $822.8 million every year of New Mexico taxpayer money will be spent to address the health impact on users. $822.8 million!
Would you vote to allow such a product to be sold? No, of course not.
We all know if that evidence was presented about cannabis, legalizing it would not stand a chance. But we are not talking here about cannabis, or a new product to be sold.
We are talking about an existing product sold across our state that ravages us like an endless pandemic with its toxic and deadly impact: tobacco.
The figures cited are the actual impacts of tobacco products in our state. Two-thousand, six hundred premature deaths among our neighbors, our families, our communities.
Meanwhile we taxpayers dish out $822.8 million in direct health care costs alone!
The tax increase in this bill moves us closer to helping our state deal with the ongoing pandemic of tobacco. It will not get us there — I would argue it is not enough — but it is an important big step.
It is time the legislature votes in favor of raising the rates as asked for in SB 197. Vote yes to save lives, reduce health care costs and increase revenue.