Governor Mary Fallin Tuesday congratulated members of the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget for passing House Bill 3210, which would increase the cigarette excise tax by $1.50 per pack. It passed, 16-11.


“This is a crucial step in reducing Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death – smoking,” said Fallin. “It is the single most effective way to reduce smoking and improve Oklahoma’s health.”


The governor applauded lawmakers for taking steps to approve the cigarette tax, which requires a three-fourths majority in both the House and Senate, instead of approving a measure sending the question to a vote of the people in November.


“Legislative approval means revenue from the tax can be coming into state coffers sooner, which would help offset some of the $1.3 billion deficit facing our state in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1,” Fallin said.


HB 3210 calls for revenue from the cigarette tax increase to go to the Healthcare Revolving Fund and to be appropriated by legislators to agencies for activities eligible to be matched with federal Medicaid dollars or mental health safety net services.


Polling showed overwhelming bipartisan support for the increase.


HB 3210 first must pass the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget before it can advance to the House floor.


Smoking kills more people than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined in Oklahoma. It costs Oklahoma $1.6 billion in related health costs each year.


At the current rate, 88,000 Oklahoma children alive today will die prematurely of smoking-related illnesses.