Tobacco Tax Increase "Sooner" Than Later

TULSA, Okla. -- The Governor's Task Force on Tobacco and Youth yesterday called for a $1 per pack hike in the cigarette tax to help deter the use of tobacco, especially among minors.

Oklahoma's cigarette tax is 23 cents per pack. The federal tax is 34 cents per pack, but will increase to 39 cents per pack in January, according to The Oklahoman. The task force estimates are that a $1- per-pack increase would lead to a 30 percent reduction in youth smoking and an 11 percent reduction in overall smoking rates.

Tobacco companies are spending an estimated $30 per Oklahoman to promote tobacco, the report said. Oklahoma is spending about $1 per Oklahoman to prevent tobacco use or to help smokers quit. Since the national settlement of a lawsuit between states and the tobacco industry, tobacco companies have increased spending by 50 percent to promote tobacco use, the task force alleged.

Don Wigley, a retired Oklahoma City retailer, was the only task force member to oppose the $1 increase. Raising the tax would send more people to American Indian smoke shops to buy their tobacco because the smoke shops' tax is much lower, he said. Also, Oklahomans in areas bordering other states would go out of state to buy cigarettes.

"The normal, home-owned grocery store retailer is really going to take a hit," Wigley said.

Tom Ryan, a Philip Morris USA spokesman, said money from the tobacco settlement provides an unprecedented opportunity for Oklahoma and other states to address the problem of youth smoking. The settlement will provide more than $200 billion to states over the next 20 years, Ryan said. Oklahoma already has received $149 million, Ryan said.
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