A Kentucky doctor wants to improve the overall health of the state by increasing the tobacco tax.
Dr. Patrick Withrow, a retired cardiologist and the Director of Outreach at Baptist Health Paducah, believes that raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes by one dollar could help reduce smoking in adolescents, pregnant women, and low-income populations.
“This is an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone,” Dr. Withrow told WKU Public Radio. “And baby steps are important. If we can’t get all we want, we at least need to start. The most important reason we do this for is the health of Kentuckians.”
Dr. Withrow says that an increase in the tobacco tax could help boost revenue and decrease costs to Kentucky’s public health systems. He believes a tax increase along with a recently enacted smoking cessation bill--which requires insurance providers to fund medications and counseling—would encourage more Kentuckians to stop smoking.
Dr. Withrow admits including the tax increase on other nicotine systems like vaping could be a challenge.
“It needs to be included, it’s easy to put a tax on a cigarette pack. It’s more difficult when you’re talking about the whole spectrum of vaping, fluids and vaping devices that are being used. But absolutely it needs to be included.”
Kentucky ranks number one in cigarette use out of all 50 states. The commonwealth also leads the nation in lung cancer deaths.