On Tuesday, December 11th, 2012, the City of Bethel became the first community in Western Alaska to pass a local levy on tobacco products. The ordinance will raise the tariff on a pack of cigarettes by $2.21 and other tobacco products by 45 percent wholesale. The ordinance will take effect in 60 days to give businesses, and the city, time to prepare.
The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation was one of a handful of local agencies which showed support for the tax. CEO, Gene Peltola, signed a letter of support and many YKHC employees showed up to testify at the public hearing on the tobacco excise tax issue.
This legislation builds on the city’s efforts to protect all people from the harmful effects of tobacco. In 1998, Bethel was the first city in the state to pass a smokefree workplace law. The Delta Tobacco Control Alliance has been a driving force over the years to move these initiatives forward.
The Bethel City council’s vote (4 in favor, 2 opposed) in passing the tobacco excise tax ordinance was a necessary step to help reduce the tobacco usage among youth in the the southwest region. Tobacco use among teenagers in the region is twice the national average. Great strides have been made on this issue, but there is still much work to be done, to improve tobacco avoidance and cessation among the region’s growing population.