Dinniman seeks tax on smokeless tobacco

Andy Dinniman

WEST CHESTER – State Senator Andy Dinniman said last week it is time for Pennsylvania to join every single other state in taxing smokeless tobacco. He said a primary benefit of such change would be to reduce its use among Pennsylvania’s youth, who use smokeless tobacco far more than their peers nationwide.

Nearly 24 percent of Pennsylvania high school seniors have used smokeless tobacco, according to the 2011 Pennsylvania Youth Survey Report – far more than the 17 percent figure for high school seniors nationwide. The survey further found that more than 11 percent of Pennsylvania seniors had used smokeless tobacco in the last 30 days compared to 8.3 percent nationally.

“That’s bad news, because we know that young people who use tobacco are more likely to use it as adults and thus less likely to live long, healthy lives,” Dinnimian said. “Every other state taxes smokeless tobacco along with cigarettes, and their children use less smokeless tobacco. It’s time for Pennsylvania to join these other states and to treat these tobacco products equally.”

Dinniman said taxing smokeless tobacco at the same rate Pennsylvania already taxes cigarettes would also provide the added benefit of providing additional funds to the Commonwealth for health, education and other essential services. The bill is expected to be formally introduced next week.

Dinniman’s statements on the benefits of taxing smokeless tobacco are supported by a number of local health officials.

According to Phoenixville Area High School Nurse Mary Sue Manley, “Smokeless tobacco carries many risks such as decay, gum disease, and cancer of the mouth. Not only is it a contributing factor for oral cancer, but may play a role in other cancers, heart disease, and stroke.

“Smokeless tobacco contains more nicotine than cigarettes, making it that much more addictive,” Manley added. “Taxation is absolutely necessary as one step toward decreasing its use and abuse.”

Dr. Charles R. Weber, a Pennsylvania trustee to the American Dental Association, said, “The use of tobacco products-cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless (spit) tobacco products (snuff and chewing tobacco) has emerged as a major preventable risk factor for a number of oral diseases and disorders. The American Dental Association supports legislation and/or regulation that acknowledges nicotine as an addictive drug.”

Diane Phillips, the American Cancer Society’s senior director of state and federal policy for Pennsylvania, released this statement: “Smokeless tobacco products appeal to children, are highly addictive, and cause cancer and other serious health problems. They are not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not include a user fee or excise tax for smokeless tobacco products.”

For more information contact Senator Dinniman’s West Chester Office at (610) 692-2112, or e-mail mindars@pasenate.com.