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Lawmakers & Health Groups Advocate Increasing The Md. Cigar Tax

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Maryland smokers brace for another tax hike, this time on products other than cigarettes.

Political reporter Pat Warren has the new tax targets.

Tobacco users who have so far avoided tax increases could now be roped in.

“I think maybe that’s just to get people to quit smoking,” one smoker said.

The tax applies to all cigars, and the same holds true for anybody who likes to chew or dip or stick little packs of tobacco between their gums and lip.

“I imagine everyone’s here because of the public health side of the story,” Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said. “It’s also a revenue generating story but that wouldn’t be why you’re here, but rather to focus on the benefits to health of what we’re proposing.”

Organizations, including Health Care For All, the Cancer Society and Lung Association, are joining forces to support the tax as a deterrent to smoking, with revenues earmarked for health-related programs.

Cancer Society volunteer John O’Hara says both his parents died of tobacco-related illnesses.

“They’d sit around the kitchen table and talk and talk and talk and smoke and smoke and smoke,” O’Hara said.

Tobacco currently taxed at 15 percent will increase to 70 percent, so a single Black and Mild sold for $1.49 would increase to $2.21, and a pack of five from would go up from $4.49 to $6.63. But the Maryland State Medical Society believes the greater price is for people to continue to use tobacco.

“And that’s why we’re here today, to hopefully have the effect of reducing the use and maybe there won’t be any revenue generation and that’s just fine with us,” Dr. David Hexter said.

The tax increase is included in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget proposal.

Supporters say the tax increase could raise at least $35 million.

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