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Cigarette tax goes to cancer research

This year the New Mexico Legislature passed a bill distributing a percentage of cigarette taxes toward cancer research.

Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States and according to Medicinenet.com, "each year, more than 180,000 Americans die from cancer that is related to tobacco use."

In New Mexico, there have been recent tax increases on cigarettes, but this increase on the price of cigarettes is not strictly for profit. Certain amounts of each pack of cigarettes sold will be distributed to the University of New Mexico's Cancer Center.

According to House Bill No. 75 of the 50th session of the New Mexico Legislature, 0.83 percent of the "net receipts" from cigarettes sold in New Mexico must be distributed to the cancer center at UNM. A total of 8.89 percent will be distributed to the New Mexico finance authority "on behalf of and for the benefit of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center," and 0.62 percent of taxes to the New Mexico finance authority for the rural county cancer treatment fund.

Kathy Duncan, nurse practitioner, said the bill sounds like a good idea.

"This sounds advantageous," Duncan said. "But because of how the bill is laid out, it might just sound like a good thing, but in reality, it may not be. If the bill does what it says and 100 percent of the money is distributed where it should be, then I think it's wonderful. But if only 10 percent is going to where it should and the rest is being pocketed by someone, then it's not so good."

According to Tobaccofreekids.org, "The evidence is clear that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking." According to the website, every time the price of cigarettes increases by 10 percent, overall cigarette consumption decreases by about 4 percent. 

"It seems as though everything is going towards some sort of cancer research, but I feel like there is very little progress made in the long run, despite the billions of dollars," said Greg Ayala, student at Dona Ana Community College. "This increase of price on cigarettes also seems like a big contradiction, considering cigarettes give you cancer."

Ayala said it seems like more publicity.

In New Mexico, general tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable deaths, accounting for 2,100 deaths per year.  This is equivalent to an annual amount of $461 million spent on state health care bills.



Published: Monday, October 15, 2012

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