Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
HB 2270 Testimony – Tobacco Tax for OHP Funding
Wednesday, April 10, 2019


I am here today in support of House Bill 2270, which will generate an additional $346 million for the Oregon Health Plan.

House Bill 2270 is one part of a six-year revenue package to provide long-term sustainable funding for the Oregon Health Plan. By increasing the cost of tobacco products and e-cigarettes, House Bill 2270 not only provides the funding we need to continue to provide health coverage to Oregonians, it invests in prevention and cessation to improve the health of our communities.

The health care funding package was developed by a workgroup I convened a year ago. The workgroup consisted of leaders from health care, business, labor, and community organizations. Their charge was to identify long-term sustainable funding for the Oregon Health Plan without cutting eligibility or benefits. I would like to thank members of the workgroup for their consensus-driven approach to solving our health care funding challenge. I have already signed the first two pieces, House Bill 2010, into law.

House Bill 2270 will improve health and save lives. Tobacco is still the number one preventable cause of disease and death in Oregon. Twenty-seven percent of adults on OHP smoke, and the cost of tobacco-related illnesses -- including asthma, heart disease, and low-birth weight babies -- accounts for nine percent of total spending of the Oregon Health Plan.

Our current cigarette tax rate is among the lowest in the nation. Raising the tobacco tax by $2 per pack will put Oregon on par with nearby states. It’s an effective and proven way to get people to quit smoking.

In addition to increasing the cigarette tax, House Bill 2270 for the first time taxes e-cigarettes. They are among the most popular nicotine product among Oregon youth. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that one in five high school students and one in twenty middle school students use e-cigarettes. Raising the price on e-cigarettes will go a long way toward preventing kids from becoming addicted from these very harmful products.

Finally, we know that two-thirds of people on the Oregon Health Plan who smoke want to quit. Ten percent of the revenue raised by House Bill 2270 will go toward investments in Tribes, culturally specific organizations, and state and local public health to expand cessation efforts. Big tobacco companies have targeted low-income communities and communities of color for decades. We need to make sure these communities have the resources they need to help people quit.

The majority of Oregonians support this increase. I appreciate your willingness to stand up to big tobacco. I urge you to swiftly pass House Bill 2270.