Cumberland Times-News

November 14, 2012

$3 pack tax?

Group proposes $1 hike on price of cigarettes


Cumberland Times-News

— It’s far from a sure thing, but if a health initiative group has its way, Marylanders will be paying a $3 per-pack tax on cigarettes next year — a dollar more than smokers are now paying.

MarylandReporter.com is reporting that Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative has the $3 per-pack tax on its 2013 General Assembly agenda. Delegate Sheila Hixon, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee which is one of the panels that would have to give preliminary approval for the increase, said it is too early to tell whether the idea will receive support in Annapolis.

Maryland already has the 11th highest      cigarette tax in the U.S.. A $1 per pack tax increase would move the state into sixth place, MarylandReporter.com said.

That the state’s high tax on cigarettes has helped diminish teen smoking is hardly arguable. Most teens cannot afford to shell out that kind of money for tobacco.

A Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids study estimates that the proposed tax increase would raise about $100 million a year in state revenue. At the same time, it forecasts an 11 percent decrease in teen smokers — which it said would equate to roughly 25,000 kids not using cigarettes.

“We want to continue to reduce teen smoking. Every 10 percent increase in price equals a six to seven percent drop in tobacco use,” Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said.

The health group also wants to see taxes raised on other tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco.

While much of the state would see a decline in smoking among teens and adults if a higher tax is imposed, the impact not likely to be as great in Allegany County. A high percentage of local smokers have been crossing the state line into nearby West Virginia for years to buy cartons of cigarettes at a fraction of the cost they would pay in Maryland.

Some smokers are so addicted to tobacco that they will buy and use it even in the teeth of more taxation. But for those who may need an extra nudge to quit the habit, a $1 per pack tax hike may be just the push they need.