Philip Morris Vows Fight

DENVER -- Philip Morris Cos. Inc. said it would join Colorado retailers in a fight against any effort by the state to raise its tax on cigarettes.

Philip Morris has lobbied hard against what is becoming a national trend of cash-strapped states trying to balance budgets and pay for critical programs, such as health care, by taxing cigarettes, according to the Denver Post.

Gubernatorial candidate Rollie Heath unveiled a plan to increase cigarette taxes by $1 a pack to raise $2.5 billion over 10 years for health care programs. The proposal must be approved by voters, who killed a 50-cent per pack increase in 1994.

"We have taken a position against it and worked very hard to make sure our position is understood," said Philip Morris spokesman Tom Ryan. "We believe a $1 increase in the excise tax is excessive. Smokers are already paying extraordinarily high taxes on cigarettes."

Colorado smokers now pay 59 cents a pack in taxes -- a 20-cent excise tax by the state and 39 cents by the federal government. A pack averages $3.18. Roughly 302 million packs of cigarettes are sold annually in Colorado, the newspaper reported.

Seventeen states have approved cigarette tax increases this year, many to cope with budget shortfalls. Ryan did not say how much the tobacco industry has spent to try to quash the efforts, but it is believed to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, The Post said.