Oregon Coalition Urges Cigarette Tax Spike

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Anti-smoking groups are urging Gov. John Kitzhaber to back a 50-cent-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax to help Oregon out of its budget troubles and to discourage young people from smoking.

Oregon, with its current 68-cent-a-pack tax, has the lowest cigarette tax on the West Coast. If the tax measure is passed, Oregon would follow the lead of Washington state, where voters last November approved an increase of 60 cents a pack, bringing Washington?s total cigarette tax to $1.42 a pack, the highest in the nation. California?s tax is 87 cents a pack.

Laura Culberson, head of the Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon, said she and other activists hope Kitzhaber will make the cigarette tax hike part of the budget-rebalancing plan he will propose to wipe out the state?s $700 million shortfall, according to the Oregonian.

The state is to release a plan next week that will include a combination of budget cuts and revenue increases the Oregon Legislature will consider in a special session next month. Culberson said it?s estimated that a 50-cent-a-pack cigarette tax hike would generate an additional $80 million for the state during the remainder of the two-year budget period.

Just as important, she said, is that it would create a disincentive for young people to smoke by making cigarettes even more expensive. The average price of a pack of cigarettes in Oregon now is $3.79.
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