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Ballot Cheat Sheet: Tobacco and sugary drink taxes, Amendment 72 and City Issue 2H

Following the health care initiatives discussed in our previous ballot cheat sheet is a second category of measures on the ballot this year: taxes. The tax initiatives Amendment 72 and City Issue 2H focus on tobacco and soft drinks, respectively.

Amendment 72 proposes increasing the tax on cigarettes to $1.75, from which the revenue would go toward health related programs and research, veteran employment, homelessness prevention and other programs.

The current tobacco tax rate is $0.84 per pack of cigarettes, while the average state tax across the country is $1.65. Money raised goes primarily toward health programs such as Medicaid, children’s health care and disease prevention and treatment. If the amendment passes, it’s estimated that the state would collect an additional $315.7 million in annual funding.

Supporters of the amendment claim that higher tobacco taxes serve as the most efficient way of discouraging smoking and tobacco use, referencing the results of the last tax increase in 2005. Cigarette consumption per person decreased by 12.6 percent after that year. Those in favor also say that the tax would help to offset the state’s health care burden and fund health care research.

Opponents claim that the measure allows for only 20 percent of the tax revenue to go toward smoking prevention, which is cited as a primary argument in support of the initiative. Opposition arguments also include that the tax would harm low-income tobacco users the most, who are less able to afford a tax increase, yet will continue to use the product due to its addictive qualities.

A “yes” vote on 72 supports raising the tax on cigarettes by $1.75 per pack while a “no” maintains the current tax rate of $0.84.

Unique to Boulder, another tax-related measure on this year’s ballot proposes adding a 2-cent per fluid ounce tax on sweetened beverages distributed within the city. City issue 2H is estimated to produce an additional $3.8 million in first year revenue, planned to go toward funding public health education.

However, revenue is expected to decrease due to recent trends which reveal an overall decrease in soda consumption. The soda tax can be found on the ballots of three other cities in the U.S.: San Francisco, Albany and Oakland, California.

Arguments in favor of the measure cite rising rates of obesity and diabetes as motivations for supporting the tax, which is intended to divert sugar consumption. Supporters also cite the effectiveness of the sugar tax in Berkeley, California, which showed a 20 percent reduction in sugary drinks in some communities within four months of the initiative’s passing.

The opposition argues that limiting consumption of sugary beverages limits personal freedom of choice, which can be viewed as reflective of larger attempts to micromanage citizens’ choices at the government level.

A “yes” vote on 2H supports implementing a $0.02 tax per ounce on sweetened beverages while a “no” rejects the initiative.

Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Heidi Harris at Heidi.Harris@colorado.edu.

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The CU Independent, or CUI for short, is the student news outlet for the University of Colorado at Boulder. We cover news, sports, politics, opinion, arts and entertainment and more. Our mission is to provide news and commentary that's for students and by students — about the things we care about.

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