The County Voice

County First 5s Must Receive Their Fair Share of Funds from Vape Tax

While this is my first year serving as a First 5 commissioner, I have long been a supporter of all the great things First 5s do. This work has never been more important as families with young children across our counties struggle during COVID-19. Families are struggling to care for ill family members, work when childcare isn’t available, and pay for food and rent after losing jobs. Children and adults alike are stressed by broken routines, social isolation, and anxiety at home and at large.

In this environment, it is critical to support young children and families by investing in prevention programs and services for both the current crisis and the recovery ahead. That’s why First 5, which coordinates locally controlled prevention systems in all 58 counties for children from prenatal through age five and their families, must receive a fair share of a proposed additional e-cigarette, or vape, tax, which is now under discussion by legislators.

County First 5s were established by Proposition 10 in 1998 as the foundation for building local early childhood systems of care in California. First 5s are completely funded by a 50-cent-per-pack cigarette tax, and a corresponding equivalency tax on other tobacco products, including cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco, etc. Proposition 56 (2016), the most recent voter-approved tobacco tax, built upon this tax structure and classified vaping products as part of “other tobacco products.” This enabled First 5, as well as public health and health care services, to receive revenue from vaping products.

However, a new proposed tax on vaping products ($2 for each 40 mg of nicotine) would not direct revenue to First 5 or childhood prevention services at all.

Excluding First 5 from the new vape tax would bypass a voter-approved tax structure, and would hurt First 5s financially at a time when family support services can ill afford it. During COVID-19, First 5s have stepped up to organize pop-up child care, diaper and food drives, virtual home visiting and developmental screening, parent groups, mental health supports, and more. County-based First 5s are the only network that look across health, human services, and education for our young kids and their families to address critical gaps in services.

We are in a global pandemic and an economic recession whose effects will be felt for years to come. There couldn’t be a worse time to pass up an opportunity to strengthen funding for First 5s, reduce overall tobacco consumption, and, most importantly, support the wellbeing of little kids in California.

As stewards for our counties, you can help with this critical new opportunity to support young children and families. I urge you to reach out to your local representatives and ask them to ensure First 5s receive their fair share of any new vape tax revenues. Let’s keep investing in the health and future of our children–and our state.

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