Utah to Raise Cigarette Tax

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah became the latest state to advance a bill that would raise the cigarette tax as the House Revenue and Taxation Committee passed a bill to boost the cost of a pack of cigarettes by 30 cents.

If approved by the state Legislature, HB 238 would raise as much as $25.5 million for smoking cessation programs, the Utah Standard-Examiner reported.

The bill, which could go into effect by May 6 if passed, raises Utah's tax on cigarettes to 81.5 cents. The bill also contains a tax hike on other tobacco products.

Illinois, New York, Michigan and at least 10 other states have also introduced legislation to increase the cigarette tax to raise money for health care costs.

The Utah bill met with resistance from Mike German, a representative of the Utah Taxpayer's Association. German said raising taxes on "bad stuff" opens the door to taxing other things such as food that contributes to obesity. He also argued that funding programs with taxes that might decline over time could be a problem.

Raising taxes could also send smokers to other states. "The tobacco revenue in Evanston (Wyo.) went up 28 percent after the last tax increase," German said.

Utah collects around $47.5 million a year on tobacco sales.
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