Residents won't be able to get discounted cigarette deals if a bill is passed into law.
Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Piti, introduced Bill 384, to prohibit the sale of tobacco products through discounted multi-pack marketing schemes and to ultimately close another tobacco tax loophole.
"This bill aims to end the tactic of giving away free or combo-packed merchandise to make tobacco products cheaper and harder to tax, and more accessible to the youth," Cruz said. "While there's still a great deal of money to be made in keeping people hooked on nicotine or in perpetuating that addiction among younger consumers, there will always be a few tobacco companies that are eager to take advantage of legal loopholes wherever they exist."
Bill No. 384 prohibits the sale of tobacco products to retailers or consumers through any multi-pack discounts. For example, "buy two, get one free." It also prohibits the sale or distribution of tobacco products without charge or for less than the listed or non-discounted price.
Price discounting is one of the tobacco industry's strategies to influence purchasing and use among potential customers who would otherwise be deterred by higher tobacco prices.
These strategies offset price increases caused by tax hikes and keep products affordable and attractive, especially to those in demographics that are most price-sensitive.
A public hearing for the bill was held early last week and several people submitted testimony.
Dr. John Ray Taitano, president of the Guam Medical Society and member of the Guam Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition, said raising taxes on tobacco is the fastest way to reduce its use. He said businesses over the past few years have found ways to make tobacco cheap and accessible to consumers through discounts.
James Gillan, director of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, said one Guamanian dies a day because of tobacco use.
Gillan said tobacco use can go down due to policies aimed at reducing access, affordability and acceptability of tobacco use.
Noel Rubio said, as a young Guamanian, he supports the bill because it would mean less youth getting access to tobacco products.
"I don't know about you, but to me, an industry that makes a profit off the endangerment of human lives is an industry that must be stopped," he said.
A part of Cruz's ongoing public health campaign to reduce tobacco use and ease the burden of related government-paid health care costs on the taxpayer. Bill 384 was drafted in consultation with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Honolulu and with the support of the Non-Communicable Diseases Consortium, comprised of representatives from various government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and the private sector.
"Public health data shows that our community's efforts to reduce tobacco use in Guam are working," said Cruz, referring to the 30-percent drop in the rate of smoking among adults in Guam, from 31.2 percent in 2001 to 25.8 percent in 2012.
The enactment of Public Law 30-80 in 2010 increased the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and allocated new tax revenues to the Guam Cancer Trust Fund for the prevention and treatments of cancers and other diseases caused by smoking and tobacco use. The tax revenue from the proposed legislation would go into the fund.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network applauded Cruz for introducing legislation that would restrict deep discounts and free samples associated with multi-pack purchases of tobacco in Guam.
Tobacco remains the No. 1 preventable cause of cancer in Guam and price is proven to be one of the most effective ways to keep kids from starting tobacco use and prompt adults to quit, the network stated in a release.
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