Thanks to moderate cigarette taxes, the Clean Indoor Air Act, and the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program; cigarettes are less accessible, less attractive, and less affordable. Unfortunately, the use of cigars, little cigars, e-cigarettes, and spit tobacco is not declining.

Tobacco tax increases are one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids. Youth are price sensitive! There is a strong connection between the cost of cigarettes and teen usage rates. Youth prevalence rates gathered from the MT Youth Risk Behavior Survey between 1993 and 2013 indicate: for every 10% increase in cigarette price, youth cigarette smoking rates are reduced seven percent.

Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco and cigars that are heavily used by Montanans are not taxed equally to cigarettes. More than half of all Montana tobacco users are choosing cigars, e-cigarettes, or smokeless tobacco; but we only collect 13.8% of our tobacco excise tax from these products. As a result of these product’s lower tax and marketing aimed at youth, 25.8% of Montana high school senior boys are regular spit tobacco users. That rate is almost double the national average.

In Gallatin County, the cost of starting a lifetime of addiction is the same price as a pack of gum. Singles of candy flavored cigars are found within 1,000 feet of Bozeman High School. They cost less than $ 0.70.

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. In Montana alone, over 1,400 lives are lost each year due to use of commercial tobacco products. That is more than four residents each day. Tobacco use kills more Montanans than suicide, homicide, car crashes, AIDS, and all other drugs combined. It is time we end the tobacco epidemic.