BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The cost to keep smoking in Maryland may soon get even steeper. Another tobacco tax hike is being pushed for 2015.
Monique Griego has more on why supporters feel it’s close to a done deal.
Right now, on average, a pack of cigarettes in Maryland costs around $7 to $8. Next year, supporters of a tax increase are hopeful they’ll be able to raise that price by a dollar, telling WJZ they already have enough votes to pass it.
Smokers in Maryland, get ready. The state may soon wallop your wallet again.
“I guess they’re just going to squeeze the smokers as hard as they can,” said Tyrone Lewis, a smoker of 25 years.
Now Lewis’ fear he’ll be hit with another tobacco tax hike may be getting a little closer to reality.
“Right now today we can say to you that we believe there are already a majority of the General Assembly committed to this proposal,” said Vincent DeMarco, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative.
Anti-smoking advocates revealed a list of 216 General Assembly candidates, Democrats and Republicans, who’ve towed to support a bill to increase Maryland’s tobacco tax by 50 percent–from $2 to $3 per pack of cigarettes in 2015.
“Our goal is to prevent disease rather than treating diseases that should have been prevented.”
Members of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative say the proposal will help fund public health programs and reduce teen smoking. Delegate Shawn Z. Tarrant pledged his support.
“In New York, a pack of cigarettes is $14. Fourteen dollars stops a whole lot of people from smoking, especially young people,” Tarrant said.
But critics, which include an umber of business and retail groups, have asked legislators to think about the tax’s impact on small businesses. Tyrone Lewis, who currently pays $7 a pack, says the hike may push him to quit.
“If the price goes up to eight bucks, that is a little much for Baltimore. We’re just a regular, blue collar town. We can’t afford those expensive prices, not even for a bad habit,” he said.
While everyone on the list revealed Wednesday is a candidate, supporters say they also looked at who was most likely to win to verify that they would have that majority.
If the hike goes through, Maryland would jump from 12th to the 4th highest tobacco tax in the country.
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