Capitol talks about taxing tobacco (video)

New Mexico smokers could soon be shelling out more money for cigarettes if a group of democratic lawmakers get their way with a plan to raise the tobacco tax.

A pack of smokes could cost a dollar more if a pair of veteran lawmakers can convince enough of their colleagues that a tobacco tax hike would be good for the state’s bank account as well as public health.

Right now the cigarette tax is 91 cents a pack, though it would rise to $1.91 if the law is passed. Other tobacco taxes would increase, too.

“It’s a health issue, “ said Rep. Danice Picraux (D-ABQ), “This is a case where levying a dollar– we hope– deters people, especially young folks, from starting smoking or continuing smoking, and that’s our way to do it.”

Rhode Island is the state with the highest tax on cigarettes at $3.46 a pack, while South Carolina imposes the lowest pack tax at 7 cents. Currently, New Mexico ranks 37th in the nation for the cigarette tax.

Still, many New Mexico lawmakers aren’t in the mood to raise taxes in a recession.

“I don’t see an appetite at all from the republican side and I know a lot of democrat senators that share the same feeling, there is no appetite for a tax increase when people are hurting so badly in their homes and their businesses, ” said Sen. Kent Cravens (R-ABQ), of Albuquerque.

Similar proposals that are also being discussed include raising taxes on liquor, soft drinks, and junk food.

Backers of taxing soda say it could add $23 million a year to the state’s budget.


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