Online Program

Tobacco taxes in the Southeastern U.S. States: Views from former legislators

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 9:30 a.m. - 9:50 a.m.

Carla Berg, PhD, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Madeleine Solomon, MPH, Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Amy Barkley, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Washington, DC
Eric Bailey, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Washington, DC
Sherell Goodwin, MPH, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Michelle Kegler, DrPH, MPH, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Background: States in the Southeastern U.S. lag in implementing tobacco control policies such as tobacco excise taxes. As such, we examined 1) influences on state legislators’ actions related to increases in cigarette excise taxes; and 2) their impressions regarding taxation on alternative tobacco products.

Methods: In 2014, we recruited 26 former state legislators in Southern states who served within the past 5 years to complete phone-based semi-structured interviews assessing the aforementioned topics.

Results: Our sample, including 61.5% Democrat and 38.5% Republican, was an average of 60.22 years of age, 84.6% male, and 96.2% White/Caucasian. Participants reported that the legacy of tobacco in the South influenced constituent and legislator support for tobacco taxes. Some supported increasing cigarette taxes in order to deter smoking, protect health, or offset health-related costs. Those who opposed reported that they did so to protect cigarette consumers from escalating costs, to protect their state’s economy, or because they opposed any taxes, particularly “sin” taxes. Many perceived that their constituents opposed all taxes. A few indicated their concern that supporting a cigarette excise tax increase would have a negative impact on reelection. Those who supported increased cigarette taxes also supported taxes on alternative tobacco. Participants expressed a variety of experiences with attempts to pass legislation, including political leveraging, deal-making, and the importance of defining appropriate ways to allocate cigarette tax revenue.

Conclusions: Policymakers’ misperceptions regarding constituents’ attitudes toward tobacco taxes and the impact of taxes on economy and health must be addressed by tobacco control advocates.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify influences on Southeastern state legislators’ actions related to tobacco tax increases.

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a PhD clinical health psychologist with expertise in tobacco control and health communications. I am an NIH and CDC funded investigator and an Assistant Professor in the Emory University School of Public Health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.