New Tobacco Tax In Bethel Aims To Keep Kids From Lighting Up
City council raises taxes by $2.21 per pack
ANCHORAGE - Will raising the price of cigarettes help keep kids from smoking? The southwest Alaska community of Bethel seems to think so.
On Wednesday the city council passed an ordinance to raise cigarette taxes by $2.21 per pack. Taxes on related products such as chewing tobacco will also jump by 45 percent. The new local tax is on top of the existing $2 statewide cigarette tax.
It's all aimed at preventing a new generation of young adults from developing dangerous addictions.
The city council member who proposed the ordinance, Eric Whitney, said the measure was met with a mixture of support and opposition from the community. Members of the healthcare community spoke out in favor of the ordinance, while those against the new tax said it was an unfair imposition against a small group engaging in an already-legal activity.
In presenting the ordinance, Whitney cited research from the American Heart Association, which shows that expensive cigarettes discourage kids from picking up the habit.
“It’s something that we can do to prevent the incidences of young people smoking,” Whitney said, arguing that if the new tax prevents teens from lighting up, they’ll “just avoid the whole thing about having them try to quit, or the health problems they'll develop later on.”
“If you're raising the price of them, they're becoming more precious,” Whitney said. “So... whoever is buying them, they’re going to be looking after them, and hopefully it won't be going for kids.”
Bethel was one of the first communities in Alaska to develop and pass a smoke-free workplace law. The community also has access to free smoking cessation and prevention programs through the local Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.
The new ordinance goes into effect in two months, allowing local merchants some time to prepare for the tax. When the tax begins, the price of a pack of cigarettes in Bethel will jump to nearly $11 a pack.