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March 17, 1993

The California Excise Tax on Cigarettes: The Tobacco Industry Profits From This Too

JAMA. 1993;269(11):1387. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500110055031

To the Editor.  —With the passage of the voter-initiated Proposition 99 in the fall of 1988, the California state excise tax on cigarettes was increased by 25 cents per package. The initiative earmarked the new revenues for tobacco use control, medical care, and research activities. Traditionally, excise taxes have been used primarily to produce revenues for federal and state governments. More recently, excise taxes have received recognition as policy-based measures with potential public health benefits. Since the initiation of the tax, California cigarette purchases have fallen at a rate of 1.7% per quarter,1 and it is estimated that smoking prevalence has decreased 17%.2 The California tax increase experience has strengthened the argument that the cigarette excise tax increases make good health policy because they precipitate a drop in tobacco purchasing. Evidence from California suggests that a 5% to 7% decline in consumption may be attributed to the 1989