Increased Tobacco Tax Would Be Boom for Mental Health

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There is a very important ballot question on Nov. 8, Amendment 72, that will support the mental health needs of children through an increase in tobacco taxes. A portion of the tax is also dedicated to veteran programs, including help for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.

So, before you mark your ballot, here is some valuable information worth your consideration.

The estimated increase would be $1.75 per pack, and there also would be a 22 percent increase on other tobacco products like cigars and chewing tobacco. This would amount to about $315 million annually.

At Mental Health Colorado, our focus is on kids and adolescents. We, as an organization, would like to see mental health professionals in all schools — and this amendment may be a way to achieve this.

This measure, if passed, would fund evidence-based prevention, early intervention and treatment programs and give youths increased access to mental health services in their communities. It’s estimated that $34 million per year would go to these focus areas.

Andrew Romanoff, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, is excited about the funding that would go to mental health care in schools: “Half of mental illnesses show symptoms by age 14, while three-fourths show symptoms by 24. But for young people, there’s an average gap of eight to 10 years between when mental health symptoms first appear and when the illness is actually treated. If treatment is offered in schools, kids are far more likely to get treatment.”

Research on consumer behavior suggests the passage of Amendment 72 would prevent 34,000 kids from becoming smokers. Colorado kids smoke 7 million packs of cigarettes a year and 8.6 percent of high school students smoke. Increasing the cigarette tax is a proven way to fight this problem and keep kids from starting to smoke.

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