HARRISBURG – The state House recently approved legislation co-sponsored by state Rep. Mark Gillen (R-Berks/Lancaster) that would prohibit welfare recipients from using their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to purchase tobacco products.
“A working Pennsylvanian’s hard-earned tax dollars should not be used to purchase a welfare recipient’s cigarettes,” Gillen said. “We recognize people may be down on their luck and need a helping hand, but public assistance dollars should not be used to support a recipient’s addiction to tobacco.”
House Bill 847
would forbid the use of EBT cards, issued by the Department of Human Services (DHS) to administer public assistance benefits, to purchase tobacco or tobacco-related products. Personal funds on EBT cards, such as child support that is in arrears, would be exempt. The Human Services Code already prohibits the purchase of liquor and alcohol with EBT cards.
“Welfare recipients – like everyone else – have the right to smoke, but – just like everyone else – they don’t have the right to have someone else pay for their cigarettes,” Gillen said. “I can absolutely understand why a Pennsylvanian who works hard and pays taxes would get upset when they see a welfare recipient using public assistance dollars to purchase cigarettes. Public assistance is there to help people meet their basic health and essential needs, and cigarettes are not healthy or essential.”
The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Representative Mark Gillen
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Dan Massing