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Tax Increase On Cheaper Tobacco Products Aims To Reduce Number Of Teen Users

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Upping the price on lighting up lowered the number of teen smokers in Maryland.

Alex DeMetrick reports a new tax aims to do the same thing with cheaper tobacco products.

The colors and flavors look like Halloween treats, but they come with warning labels. Still, smokeless tobacco and flavored cigars carry the same risks as cigarettes.

“If you use tobacco products, oral cancers, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, emphysema, cancer, all of those things will happen,” Dr. Donald Shell of the Maryland Center for Tobacco Prevention said.

That’s not news to students at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, who helped present a study to the state legislature this spring, prompting higher taxes on those products.

“It’s killing them. A lot of the chemicals inside of the product are used for non-living things and things that kill living things,” said Lia Harris, a senior at the school.

Higher taxes on cigarettes have pushed the cost beyond the allowances of many young smokers.

The new tax may do the same for cheaper tobacco products. For example, flavored cigars are going up by 40 cents each to $1.69. A five-pack climbs to nearly $8.

Smokeless tobacco increases up to 50 cents more, raising the price on a can of Skoal to nearly $5.50.

“Based on what’s happened in other states, we know this will reduce the use of this product by kids by 30 percent,” said Vincent DeMarco of the Maryland Health Care For All Coalition.

Raising the price on these products will generate $5 million a year, money tax supporters want spent on fighting the health effects of tobacco.

While public health is a big part of the new tax, there is no guarantee the state legislature will spend it on tobacco-related programs.

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