February 19, 2009

Tobacco Tax Becomes Law; Provides $86 Million for Health Improvements

Gov. Beebe discusses tobacco tax legislation
 Gov. Mike Beebe (right) discusses the
tobacco tax legislation he signed Feb. 17. From left are state Health Department
Director Paul Halverson,
state Rep. Gregg Reep and
state Surgeon General Joe Thompson.

UAMS Vice Chancellor Kohler and others attend tobacco tax signing
Attending the bill signing were (from left) UAMS Vice Chancellor Peter O. Kohler, University of Arkansas System 
President B. Alan Sugg,
state Rep. Gregg Reep and
state Sen. Tracy Steele.

Arkansas Gov. Beebe signs tobacco tax legislation
Gov. Mike Beebe signs HB 1204 into law.
The bill increases taxes on tobacco and cigarettes $86 million, which will go to
improve health care in Arkansas.

Feb. 19, 2009 | A new tobacco tax will provide $86 million to improve the health of Arkansans. Gov. Mike Beebe signed House Bill 1204 into law Feb. 17 at a ceremony at the State Capitol.

The bill raises taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products beginning March 1.
It is expected to fund numerous health care programs that will be set out in separate legislation.

The centerpiece of the plan is funding for a $25 million trauma system, a statewide system of care that includes all providers – ambulance service and other first-responders, hospitals and rehabilitation. Training and communications will be put in place to ensure trauma victims are transported to a hospital with the level of care appropriate to the injury or condition.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is expected to participate in the trauma system. UAMS programs and services will benefit in other areas as well. The plan for use of the tobacco tax calls for UAMS to receive $3 million for operating funds for its satellite campus in northwest Arkansas in Fayetteville. The campus has already raised more than $3 million in private funds.

The campus will open for the fall 2009 semester and is intended to address growing health care work force shortages by allowing UAMS to increase enrollment. It will include students in the UAMS colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Health Related Professions. In addition, it will provide facilities for resident physicians, faculty and patients. It will have 250 to 300 students along with resident physicians when full enrollment is reached.

Peter O. Kohler, M.D., vice chancellor for the northwest Arkansas region, is leading the satellite campus effort, working with community leaders, hospital administrators and local health care providers.

Another $3.4 million is to go for medical training at UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers. UAMS operates eight AHECs spread throughout the state, seven of which have medical residency programs.

About $700,000 is set aside for improving health data at UAMS.