Poll: West Virginians favor tobacco tax increase - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Poll: West Virginians favor tobacco tax increase

CHARLESTON (PRESS RELEASE) – As the Legislature works to address a significant budget shortfall, a new poll released today shows that 67 percent of West Virginia voters support raising the tobacco tax by $1 per pack to help address the budget shortfall and fund programs to reduce tobacco use. Just 31 percent of voters oppose increasing the tobacco tax.


This support comes from a broad-based coalition of voters, including 69 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats, and 67 percent of independents. In addition, voters from across the state and across virtually every demographic group strongly support the tobacco tax increase.

"Now is the time for legislators to listen to the large majority of West Virginia voters who want to raise the tobacco tax instead of cutting critical programs. These results show that, regardless of party, voters across West Virginia understand raising the tobacco tax is a smart way to address the budget shortfall and protect our kids from tobacco," said Chuck Hamsher, Government Relations Director with the American Heart Association. "Raising the tobacco tax is a WIN, WIN for West Virginia."

The survey of 500 registered West Virginia voters was released by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia, a coalition of health and community groups including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, West Virginia Hospital Association, West Virginia State Medical Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The poll was funded by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

West Virginia voters strongly prefer the tobacco tax over most other options for addressing the state's budget woes. When presented with a list of options for closing the budget shortfall, two-thirds of voters support increasing the tobacco tax for this purpose, while a majority opposed other options, including increasing sales, income, beverage and business taxes or reducing funding for health care, higher education, primary care clinics or child protection programs.

Increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages was the only other proposal tested to garner majority support.

"Support for increasing the tobacco tax comes from a broad-based coalition of voters, including Republicans, Democrats, Independents and voters from every part of the state," said pollster Nathan Henry of the Mellman Group, Inc., the firm conducting the survey. West Virginia voters also express a preference for candidates who support the tobacco tax. By a margin of 57 percent to 26 percent, voters opt for a candidate who supports the tax over one who opposes it. The preference for candidates who support the tobacco tax holds for Democrats, independents and Republicans.

West Virginia voters also strongly support taxing all tobacco products at the same rate as cigarettes. Three-quarters of voters (75 percent) favor taxing other tobacco products (OTP) such as cigars and smokeless (spit) tobacco at a rate comparable to cigarettes. Currently these products are taxed at a rate lower than cigarettes.

West Virginia's current cigarette tax is 55 cents per pack, which ranks 44th in the nation and is well below the state average of $1.48 per pack. A $1 increase in West Virginia's cigarette tax, along with an increase in the tax on other tobacco products, would raise more than $140 million in new annual revenue for the state, despite the declines in tobacco use it would help bring about.

The tax increase would also:

• Prevent 21,100 West Virginia kids from smoking.

• Save 11,800 state residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths.

• Save more than $760 million in long-term tobacco-related health care costs.

These health benefits would be even greater if some portion of the tax is used to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which are underfunded in West Virginia. Seven out of ten voters (71 percent) support funding tobacco prevention efforts at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Full poll results are available at http://www.tobacco-free-wv.com/.

The survey involved a random sample of 500 likely 2014 general election voters in West Virginia and was conducted by the Mellman Group, Inc. The survey was conducted by landline and cell phone, using live interviewers, February 19-21, 2013. Voters were screened for likely participation in the November 2014 general election. To assure data are representative of the voting population, results were checked against statewide voter registration statistics and weighted by key demographics, when necessary. The overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.4% percentage points at the 95% confidence level.


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