House Passes Bill to Refer Cigarette and Nicotine Products Tax to Ballot

DENVER, CO — The House today passed HB20-1427 by a vote of 40-25. Sponsored by Representatives Yadira Caraveo and Julie McCluskie, the bill refers to voters a ballot measure to increase cigarette, tobacco and nicotine products taxes, and to tax electronic cigarettes, vaping devices, and nicotine liquids, in order to fund K-12 schools and boost early childhood education. 

“As a pediatrician, I’ve seen firsthand how youth nicotine use is devastating the health of our kids,” said Rep. Caraveo, D-Thornton. “The people of our state should have the opportunity to take meaningful action to reduce our highest-in the-nation youth vaping rates and invest in the future of our children. I’m grateful for the work of so many who came together to craft this proposal and send it to the people for approval.”

“We need universal early childhood education so that every four year-old in Colorado can be ready for kindergarten and prepared to succeed,” said Rep. McCluskie, D-Dillon. “Referring this measure to the ballot is the responsible path forward to protect our kids from the dangers of vaping and provide our schools and early childhood education providers with the additional funding they so badly need.”

In Colorado, over 5,000 people die each year from smoking related illnesses. More than 90,000 Colorado kids currently under 18 years old will die prematurely from smoking. Colorado has the nation’s highest rate of teen nicotine vaping, with over 27 percent of high school students using electronic nicotine vaping products. Research shows that for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, smoking rates among youth and kids drops by six or seven percent. 

HB20-1427 refers a ballot issue to voters for the November 2020 election. If passed, the ballot initiative would increase the per cigarette tax from one cent to nine cents by 2027. It would, for the first time, place a tax on nicotine products like e-cigarette and vaping nicotine liquids that would start at 10 percent and increase to 22 percent by 2027.

At first, the revenue will be used to protect the state’s budget, but starting in 2023, the measure would raise nearly $190 million for early childhood education and nicotine products cessation programs. This funding would provide access to prekindergarten for at least 10 hours a week to every child in the state. It also provides additional preschool programming to lower-income families to promote school readiness. Children who participate in the Colorado Preschool Program are 26 percent less likely to have a significant reading deficiency in kindergarten, half as likely to be held back a grade level, and more than 10 percent more likely to graduate on time. 

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