Proposed Legislation in Several States Takes Aim at Tobacco
RICHMOND, Va. -- It's that time of year when legislators across the country look to hike tobacco taxes as they pencil out their state budgets. However, adult smokers in at least one state will not have to shell out more money for a pack of cigarettes.
A bill to increase Virginia's state tax on tobacco products, introduced by Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington), failed to move out of the House Finance Committee on Friday. The proposal called for the cigarette tax to increase 30 cents to $1.45 per pack. That move would have been a 383-percent increase, according to The Virginia Gazette.
If it had passed, the increase would have brought Virginia's tax up to the national average. The proposal also called for the tax on other tobacco products to rise from 10 percent of the wholesale price to 50 percent, the news outlet reported.
Adult smokers in Massachusetts may not be so lucky, though. On Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to propose an increase in the state's cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack. The measure, if passed, would raise $260 million in new revenue for the state budget, according to the Associated Press.
Patrick's budget plan also looks to impose the state's 6.25 percent sales tax on candy and soda, which are currently exempt from the tax, and to expand Massachusetts' bottle deposit law to include bottled water, sports drinks and other beverages.
In addition to increasing the cigarette tax from $2.51 per pack to $3.01 per pack, the governor's plan would double the taxes paid on other tobacco products such as cigars and smokeless tobacco. This hike is expected to raise $73 million, officials said, with the money earmarked to help offset the cost of a recent decision by the state's highest court that cleared the way for thousands of legal immigrants to join Commonwealth Care, the state's subsidized health insurance program, the AP reported.
The sale of tobacco products is also garnering some attention in Missouri, but not for tax purposes. State Sen. Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City) is proposing legislation that would bar store clerks under 18 years old from selling tobacco products. Under her plan, stores that allow minors to sell tobacco would be fined as much as $500 per violation, The Republic reported.