PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Supporters of an upcoming ballot measure that will ask Oregon voters to raise the cigarette tax by $2 per pack say they have raised nearly $9 million.
Most of the contributions come from seven health systems that do business in Oregon, including a $3.3 million gift from Washington-based Providence Health & Services, which has eight hospitals in Oregon, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Tuesday.
In addition, Oregonians For A Smoke Free Tomorrow reported $200,000 from a political action committee associated with nurses in the state.
The ballot measure, referred to voters by state lawmakers, would increase the cost of a pack of cigarettes from $1.33 to $3.33 and would also add a 65% tax for electronic cigarettes, which are not taxed in Oregon.
The hike would bring Oregon more into line with California and Washington when it comes to the cost of cigarettes, but a similar effort in 2007 failed after tobacco interests outspent proponents by $8 million, OPB reported.
If passed, the tax changes are expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars that Democrats want to use to stabilize the state’s Medicaid system, known as the Oregon Health Plan.
Public health officials have said the move could also be important for discouraging people from smoking. That’s a point that the pro-tax campaign seized on Monday, citing recent deaths from illnesses linked to vaping, and the popularity of e-cigarettes with teens.
State officials have suggested in the past that a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes could cut smoking by 8%.
The tax increase voters will take up next year would increase prices by around one-third.