Tobacco tax revenues that pay for California preschool and other early childhood services are steadily declining as users give up smoking, and a scramble is on to find another source of funding.
The tale of the shrinking funding source — now down to $350 million this year from $650 million in 1998 — starts at tobacco shops like Drive Thru Cigarettes. Tucked inside a strip mall on Huntington Drive in Duarte, the business and other nearby shops have seen sales drop to a trickle.
Customer Eduardo Hernandez said he used to smoke a lot, but he’s down to a pack a day and looks forward to quitting — and relishing the money he could save from his Little Cesar’s Pizza server salary.
“I know smoking is bad,” he said.
But for now, Hernandez’s habit is helping fund free preschool for disadvantaged families and other early childhood programs. 80 percent of tobacco taxes go directly to fund programs for children under five.
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