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New 75-cent per-pack cigarette tax starts today

Wisconsin starts collecting a new 75 cent per-pack cigarette tax today.

The tax, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, is estimated to prompt 17,000 Wisconsin smokers to quit while preventing 33,000 Wisconsin kids from ever starting.

It's also expected to save the state $740 million in long-term health care costs due to decreased rates of adult and youth smokers.

"Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use," said Cathy Peters, Wisconsin Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society. "Making cigarettes more expensive makes it harder for kids to afford to start smoking and motivates adults to stop."

But quitting smoking isn't easy, which is why the American Cancer Society offers smokers help through their quit line.

By calling the American Cancer Society Quitline® at 1-800-227-2345 people who plan to quit will be able to speak with a trained counselor and receive free, confidential counseling.

Studies have found that Quitline can more than double a person's chances of successfully quitting tobacco. Callers to Quitline can be connected with smoking cessation resources in their communities, social support groups, Internet resources, and medication assistance referrals. Since its inception in 2000, Quitline has provided counseling support to more than 380,000 smokers.

"The better prepared smokers are and the more resources they have to quit the more likely they are to be successful. Most smokers want to quit, they just need help actually doing it," said Peters.

A little less than 20% of people in Wisconsin smoke, just below the national average, yet Wisconsin spends an estimated $2 billion annually on tobacco-related health care costs, $500 million of which comes direct from taxpayers' pockets in the form of Medicaid.

"Whatever we can do to help smokers quit is worth it both in terms of dollars and lives saved," said Peters.

The 75 cent tax increase follows a $1 increase implemented in January 2008 and brings the total Wisconsin cigarette tax to $2.52 per pack.