California cigarette tax increase goes into effect


Marius Mellbeye/CC BY 2.0

In November, 2016, California lawmakers passed Proposition 56, a law that increased taxes on tobacco and nicotine products. That tax went into effect Saturday, April 1.

Camille Dunning, Staff Writer

The new tax increase on tobacco products went into effect on Saturday, April 1.  

This measure was part of California’s Proposition 56, approved by voters on Nov. 8, 2016.  The proposition won among voters by almost a 30 percent margin.

In 2016, the tobacco tax amounted to 87 cents per pack of tobacco products, with the revenue allocated to the General Fund, environmental protection, health care services for low-income persons, breast cancer screening, and childhood development programs.

Under Proposition 56, the California excise tax on tobacco products is now at $2.87.  This puts California at ninth in the nation for the highest cigarette tax.

“I’ve been a long-time proponent of this type of legislation because, in the Berkeley and Oakland area, smoking and drugs have had many effects on communities,” said Keri Dulaney-Greger, an English professor at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill.  

A study by the University of California, San Francisco reported that smoking was responsible for one in seven deaths in California, more than AIDS and diabetes. Smoking also took a hefty financial toll on California, with its total cost amounting to $18.1 billion.

These tax increases are what young Californians need. It’s for the sake of our health and behavior.”

— Greg Elliott

Many studies have shown increasing taxes on tobacco products to be an effective means for combating smoking, even among adolescents, who make up 9 percent of smokers in California.  

A peer-reviewed study by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found a strong correlation between increasing prices and decreasing consumption. Cigarette taxes have also especially effective in reducing smoking for blacks, Hispanics, and lower-income individuals, according to the CDC.

Saturday’s tax increase will likely have a similar effect. According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento County resident Heather Jarrett has pledged to quit smoking after 21 years because she is now forced to pay extra to cover both her and her husband’s habits.

Jarrett’s husband struggles with an addiction to nicotine products, which were also included in the proposition for tax increases. These devices, ranging from vapor pens to electronic cigarettes will be subject to a tax rate of 27 percent.

Designed to both reduce smoking and increase tax revenue, the expected fiscal impact of the proposition will be a $400 million increase in state revenue by the end of 2017.

Greg Elliott, an Oakland resident and former smoker, said, “These tax increases are what young Californians need. It’s for the sake of our health and behavior.”