How Philly’s Plummeting Smoking Rate Could Harm Schools

The cigarette tax might not be as much of a money-maker as officials had hoped.

1. Maybe you shouldn’t quit smoking … for the kids. (We kid, we kid.)

The gist: Today, Philadelphia’s new cigarette tax is bringing in the bucks for the city’s schools. The Inquirer reported that in its first nine months, the tax raised $50 million for the school district — which is almost exactly what officials had predicted. During the budget year that just began this July, the tax is expected to reap $60 million. “After that, however, the tax will bring decreasing amounts, according to state and school district officials,” wrote the Inky’s Claudia Vargas. “They expect cigarette sales to decrease by 7 percent in 2016-17 and even more after that.”

Why it matters: To make matters worse, Vargas reported that the tax might bring in even less money than officials expect in future years. She wrote that the city said “that the number of calls to the smoking cessation lines have more than doubled since the tax started.” Plus, the city’s smoking rate recently dropped to an all-time low. When lawmakers were debating the cigarette tax last year, critics (even some supporters) said it would be unsustainable, and it looks like they might be proven right. On the flip side, health officials said the tax is pushing some people to kick the habit, which is a good thing. Others are just buying cigarettes outside of the city’s borders, however.

2. Here’s why the Democratic Party doesn’t like Joe Sestak.

The gist: You’ve heard that Democratic Party leaders are trying to cajole Katie McGinty, Gov. Tom Wolf’s chief-of-staff, into running for the U.S. Senate. But maybe you’ve wondered why party heads are against the Democrat who has already tossed his hat into the ring and who came close to beating Republican Pat Toomey in the 2010 Senate election: Joe Sestak. NewsWorks’ Dave Davies wrote a must-read explainer on the matter.

Why it matters: Davies reports that 1) Sestak went against the plans of top Democrats in 2010 by running against Arlen Specter in the 2010 primary. 2) He allegedly burned Philadelphia Democratic Party boss and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady. And 3) He backed a write-in challenger to then-Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz in 2012. Check out Davies’ report for his full analysis.

3. You can help protect the city’s environment by playing a game.

The gist: The Philadelphia Water Department has released a new app that allows users to see the impact of installing eco-friendly stormwater infrastructure on their properties.

Why it matters: Not only is the app kind of fun, it could also help you save money. Next City reported that it “calculates how much property owners will save on their monthly Stormwater Management Service charge, a utility fee applied to all non-residential properties in Philadelphia to recover the cost of stormwater management” if they add the infrastructure IRL.

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