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Bethel City Council Passes $2.21 Per Pack Cigarette Tax

Alaska - The Bethel City Council passed a $2.21 cigarette tax last night, December 11. It is the first tobacco tax the community has instituted. The ordinance will also raise the tax on Other Tobacco Products (OTP) by 45 percent of the wholesale price. The law will go into effect in about two months, to give businesses time to adapt.

This local Bethel cigarette tax is in addition to the statewide two-dollar tax on cigarettes. The cost of a pack of cigarettes in Bethel will go from more than eight dollars a pack to nearly eleven dollars a pack. 

Bethel City Council Member Eric Whitney introduced the ordinance after researching it with Bethel City staff. Following the vote he said, “ In Bethel we have some of the highest, if not the highest, teenage use of tobacco, both cigarettes and dip, in the state. If we can convince young people to not use tobacco, statistics tell us they will not start. Raising taxes is a key component to keep teenagers from smoking and chewing.”

This legislation builds on Bethel’s efforts to eradicate tobacco use. The community was the first in Alaska to develop and pass a smokefree workplace law. The Delta Tobacco Control Alliance has been the organization helping move these efforts forward in Bethel.

Jamie Morgan, Senior Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association said, "Tobacco use dramatically increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.  Increasing Bethel's tobacco tax is a big win for public health because the evidence is clear that increasing price is one of the best ways to decrease tobacco use, especially among youth."

Laura Ellsworth of the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s Nicotine Control and Research Program is a Bethel resident and says this will improve the health and well being of her community. “There is conclusive evidence that increasing the cost of tobacco reduces the number of young people who start using tobacco. This is an exciting day for our community.”

For information contact Laura Ellsworth at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s Nicotine Control and Research Program at laura_ellsworth@ykhc.org or at 907-543-6146.

 The Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) is a statewide organization that works to create conditions in Alaska to be tobacco-free. ATCA’s vision is to create conditions for Alaskans to live free from the harmful effects of tobacco. For more information on how to support smokefree environments, go to alaskatca.org or find us on Facebook at facebook.com/MakeAlaskaTobaccoFree.

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