Times of San Diego Opinion: Use New Tobacco Tax Dollars to Provide Dental Care for Seniors


By Shelley Lyford

California has an enormous and alarming problem when it comes to obtaining dental care for the state’s most vulnerable residents — children, seniors and others enrolled in the Denti-Cal program. We see this need firsthand every day at the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center, where we’ve experienced a wave of demand for care from seniors since we opened our doors last year in downtown San Diego, with some patients not having seen a dentist in decades.

Fortunately, voters sought to remedy this problem last fall when they approved Proposition 56 by an overwhelming margin and raised the tobacco tax. The state began collecting those revenues from tobacco sales on April 1. This money is intended, according to the ballot measure’s language, to be spent broadly to improve health and access to medical and dental care services. Now we just have to ensure that the funding is not diverted and used elsewhere.

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