Nevada Next to Target Tobacco

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Nevada Next to Target Tobacco

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- A proposal to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 35 cents to $1 is "shortsighted and narrow-minded," a spokesman for the tobacco industry said.

The Task Force for the Fund for a Healthy Nevada Tuesday voted to ask the 2003 Legislature to boost the tax, which has not been changed since 1989.

Sen. Ray Rawson, (R-Las Vegas) chairman of the task force, estimated it would raise an extra $70 million to $75 million a year. Plus, backers of the plan believe it will reduce the unhealthy consumption of cigarettes.

However, C.O. Watson, a lobbyist for the Nevada Association of Tobacco and Candy Wholesalers, said the increase would kill the sales made to tourists.

According to a Las Vegas Sun report, the $1-a-pack tax would make it highest in the West. California now charges 87 cents a pack and Utah imposes a 69.5 cent-a-pack tax, which are presently the highest among the Western states. Oregon charges 68 cents, Arizona 58 cents and Idaho 28 cents.

Watson said 67 percent of the sales in Nevada are to tourists who stock up on cartons of cigarettes before they return home. Only 33 percent of the purchases, he said, are made by Nevadans.

Nevada's existing 35 cents-per-pack tax raised $43.7 million for the state and $17.1 million for local governments in last fiscal year.