Florida health advocacy group urges Legislature to support tobacco fairness legislation

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The Florida Community Health Action Information Network (CHAIN) urges the state legislature to pass House Bill 1207. This legislation would require every tobacco manufacturer in Florida to make important contributions toward the cost of health care in the state.

“With our state’s budget deficit reaching $4 billion, this legislation is a part of the solution for Florida’s financial problems. With critical services like health care facing drastic cuts, this legislation will generate tens of millions in much needed revenue for Florida,” said Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the Florida CHAIN.

As stipulated in the 1997 Florida Tobacco Settlement Agreement, some tobacco manufacturers pay the state funds which are directed toward Florida’s health care system. However, a group of tobacco manufacturers were omitted from this agreement. After more than 13 years of not paying the state much needed dollars, these non-participating manufacturers (NPM’s) now represent more than 20 percent of the cigarette market in Florida. Florida has lost more than $1 billion while allowing this loophole to persist.

“The fact is, Florida’s tobacco policies need to be reviewed because there are cigarette manufacturers that are getting a free ride by not having to make critical payments to the state,” continued Goodhue.”This legislation would simply requirethe remaining companies to charge an extra 52 cent per pack to contribute towards the state’s health care costs.These NPM brands make payments in 48 other states and they can certainly pay it in Florida. Our state needs House Bill 1207.”

If passed, the legislation will go into effect this summer and would be an immediate way to generate additional revenue for the state. It is expected the legislation will bring in at least $50 million and potentially more than $90 million in much needed revenue for Florida annually. The Florida CHAIN is a member of Citizens for Fairness in Florida Coalition, a group composed of retailers, manufacturers, health care advocates, and statewide organizations with the common goal to ensure that all smokers in Florida contribute to a state fund to offset smoking-related health care costs.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.