Campaign Contributions Near $10 Million for Cigarette Tax Measure

 The campaign to increase Oregon’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack has received over $9.7 million in contributions.   

According to OPB’s analysis of campaign finance disclosures, the largest contribution came from Providence Health & Services in Washington, roughly $3.3 million. Vancouver’s PeaceHealth and Portland’s Legacy Health System chipped in $1 million and $1.7 million, respectively. A further $200,000 came from the Nurses United Political Action Committee.  

House Bill 2270, originally proposed by Gov. Kate Brown, asks voters to raise the tax on cigarettes from $1.33 per pack to $3.33 per pack, as well as implementing a 65 percent tax on electronic cigarettes. The proceeds will go to funding the Oregon Health Plan.  

Health advocates and state officials alike hope that the tax will also act as a deterrent against tobacco use. Earlier this year, senior economist Dae Baek of the Legislative Revenue Office projected that a 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes could lead to an 8 percent reduction in smoking. If passed, HB 2270 would raise prices by almost a third.  

The last attempt to raise the state’s tobacco tax occurred in 2007 with Measure 50, which proposed by an 84.5 cent hike. The measure was soundly defeated by the tobacco industry, which spent $12.1 million to the opposition’s $3.7 million.   

In a press release, Nurse Melissa Busch of Warren, Oregon said “Big Tobacco has a history of spending millions in our state to deceive voters. Our campaign is backed by nurses, physicians, providers, non-profit healthcare organizations, and unions and we are going to stand united against Big Tobacco’s misinformation campaign.”  

House Bill 2270 will be on the November 2020 ballot.  

By Brandon Urey