In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer Commentary, Cheryl Bettigole, MD, UPenn PRC Community Advisory Board member and Director of the Division of Chronic Disease Prevention at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, advocates broadening the tobacco tax increase adopted by the Pennsylvania legislature last summer.
The tax increase was applied only to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, roll-your-own and smokeless tobacco. Bettigole advocates including cigars and cigarillos.
“More than 10 percent of high school boys now smoke cigars and the failure to tax these products is likely to make them disproportionately cheap and hence more attractive to teens. Like e-cigarettes, cigarillos come in a multitude of flavors that seem designed to draw kids in, and are often displayed in Philadelphia’s neighborhood stores next to displays of candy and gum.”
Flavored tobacco products are a particular draw to young people. According to Bettigole, seven out of ten teens who start smoking begin with a flavored tobacco product. Bettigole notes, “More than 90 percent of smokers start as teens and that addiction, once begun, can be impossible to break.”