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Cigar Association Fights Kansas Tobacco Tax Hike

TOPEKA, Kan. -- As Kansas lawmakers prep to tackle a projected $467 million shortfall in the state budget, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) is fighting one proposal to close the gap -- S.B. 516, which would increase the state's tobacco taxes.

Anti-smoking and other groups are pressuring legislators to more than double the cigarette tax -- from $.79 per pack to $1.79 -- while also raising taxes on other tobacco products up to 300 percent, according to the association.

Supporters of the bill claim the higher tobacco taxes will cut smoking among adults and discourage young people from smoking, according to the IPCPR, which argues the tax increase will result in lower tax revenues and increase illegal tobacco sales.

"Everyone knows that increased taxes on tobacco products result in lower tax revenues, not higher, because they encourage illegal sales of bootlegged tobacco products. People also cross borders and use the Internet to purchase their tobacco products which eliminates all tobacco taxes from the state's coffers," Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR, said in a statement. "Increased tobacco taxes are wrong for the times and wrong for Kansas."

The proposed increase in tobacco taxes would hurt the citizens of Kansas, small businesses and would barely make a dent in the state's deficit, he added.

"Such taxes never produce the kinds of new revenues that they are projected to raise. They actually cost the state revenues because people find other, non-taxable ways to get their tobacco, mainly out of state or through illicit avenues. The state continues to lean on the backs of tobacco -- small business owners like our members who are struggling to stay in business. With the tight economy, our retailers are providing jobs to their employees and paying taxes that the state needs. To tax them further will only hinder and possible jeopardize their operations," he said.

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