Group pushing tobacco tax says it's a popular idea
Two-thirds of Maryland voters support increasing the state’s tobacco tax, according to a new poll from the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, the group that pushed the dime-a-drink tax on alcohol last General Assembly session.
The group says their poll by Opinion Works shows 65 percent endorse the idea of another $1 a pack tax on cigarettes while less than 30 percent oppose it. About 72 percent of Maryland voters like the idea of taxing cigars and smokeless tobacco at the same rate as cigarettes. (The phone poll of more than 800 people was conducted last week.)
The group believes increasing the tax will cut consumption and fund health care programs, especially among youth who have adopted the use of cigars, especially flavored one. As of 2010, 15.2 percent of adults and 14.1 percent of high school students in Maryland were smokers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say smoking and secondhand smoke cause 443,000 deaths and $96 billion in related disease annually – or $10.47 per pack consumed if lost productivity is counted. The average price nationally for cigarettes is about $5.58.
“Increasing taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco is a public health imperative,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, in a statement. “The people of Maryland strongly support this because they know doing so will reduce the use of these deadly products by young people.”
What DeMarco doesn’t have is the support of the leadership in Annapolis. The extra buck would bring the total in taxes to $3, among the highest in the nation. The tax has been raised three times in 1999, mostly recently in 2007.