Lawmaker introduces bill to increase tobacco tax

cigarette The pack runs him $4.99 a day – about $1,000 a year. If Representative Harold Ritchie has his way, Seeman would pay $5.69 a pack — that’s a $0.70 increase.

“About $250 a year increase,” said Seeman.

Currently, Louisiana’s cigarette tax is $.36, significantly lower than the neighboring states and one of the lowest in the country.

A $0.70 per pack increase would bring the total state tax to $1.06. Cigar prices would increase as well anywhere between 4% – 16%.

A study by the American Cancer Society shows the tax will pump an additional $178.2 million into the economy — all while improving the Bayou state’s health.

“Louisiana leads the nation in most chronic disease category — lung cancer, heart disease — and those are all attributed to smoking,” said American Cancer Society’s Andrew Muhl.

“You’ll have adult smokers who quit smoking. We’ll have young people who never start,” said Ritchie.

Seeman said in his case, $0.70 won’t keep him from lighting up.

“It’s not about the money so much. The money is a big factor in wanting to quit but it’s a compound habit,” said Seeman.

Bayou Tobacco owner Sarah McCauley’s biggest fear is having her cigar customers go elsewhere.

“You don’t have to be face-to-face. Sales of premium cigars and tobacco, you can go on the Internet,” said McCauley.

Governor Bobby Jindal has already said he will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.

“Each household in taxes spent $642 a year on smoking-related illnesses due to smoking so it would be a benefit to taxpayers. So we’re hoping he’ll change his mind,” said Ritchie.

A similar bill was introduced in 2009, but died in the House.

Ritchie said the tax revenues will go towards healthcare programs such as research and smoking cessation programs.

The bill will head to committee in the regular session.

source: WAFB

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