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November 13, 2001 Press Release


TOBACCO TAX FOR HEALTH NOW!

Polling indicates broad public support for 50 Cent Increase
Passage supports needy families during recession
Generates Federal Funds for Massachusetts economy


BOSTON, MA – A diverse group of Health Care experts, advocates, providers, business leaders and community organizations today called upon the Legislature to raise the state tobacco tax to reduce tobacco use and fund health care. Polling research conducted by the Alliance for a Healthy New England found that 69% of Massachusetts voters support a 50-cent increase in the tobacco tax for these purposes. The increase would generate at least $158 million annually in the Commonwealth that, matched with federal funds, would provide significant revenue for critical Health Care programs. Find out

“In the middle of an economic crisis, our Legislature has an incredible opportunity to support the safety net and care for our most needy without expending one dollar from the general fund,” said Rob Restuccia of Health Care for All. “Children, seniors and working families threatened by the recession will all benefit from this plan and the federal dollars brought into the Commonwealth will help our economy.”
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The Health Now! Massachusetts Coalition called for the tobacco tax revenue to be directed into the Children’s & Senior’s Trust Fund, with a portion of the funds dedicated to expansion of access to health care. These funds would be eligible for a dollar for dollar match by the federal government. The provision of critical health services combined with the additional revenue generated by federal funds to the state is good public policy for our weakened economy.

“By wisely investing in preventative programs, we can save enormous costs in the future, provide relief to families hurt by the recession and bring new dollars into our state’s economy” said Lori Fresina of the American Cancer Society. “This is just good public policy on every level and the voters support it.”

The Coalition has been lobbying the Legislature for months on this initiative. Polls conducted by the Coalition in the spring point to strong bi-partisan support for the tobacco tax by Massachusetts’ voters. The state’s weakening economy and resulting revenue losses have heightened the Coalition’s lobbying efforts and made the case for the tobacco tax more compelling. Member of the Coalition have actively lobbied the legislature over the past week as the closing days of the session approach.

Over 75 leading Health Care institutions, community hospitals, insurers, consumers, religious groups, and labor unions have voiced their support for the plan, which calls for using the tobacco revenues to:

1. Save Health Care for Children, Families, People with Disabilities and Seniors
2. Provide Health Care for Working Families threatened by the recession
3. Protect Hospitals by decreasing demand on the Free Care Pool
4. Reduce Youth Smoking to save lives and cut Health Care costs

The Health Now! coalition is made up of more than 75 organizations, bringing together the same broad-based coalition that led the successful 1996 effort to pass Chapter 203, which has brought health coverage to over 250,000 children and adults. Health Now! MA is part of the Alliance for a Healthy NE, which is working to pass tobacco tax increases to expand access to Health Care in all six NE states. For a complete list of the coalition and information on the tobacco tax go to www.healthnowma.org.

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