Health Advocates Back $1 a Pack Increase in Cigarette Tax

February 28, 2016
Smoking in car by Wout de Jong with Flick Creative Commons License

Smoking in car by Wout de Jong with Flick Creative Commons License

In an effort to discourage Marylanders from smoking, health advocates urged lawmakers Wednesday to back a bill that would raise the state’s $2-per-pack cigarette tax to $3. Taxes on other tobacco products would increase by 30% as well.

The bill, HB71, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, and Del. Barbara Frush, D-Prince George’s, would also require Gov. Larry Hogan to put in at least $21 million in annual funding for the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program beginning in fiscal year 2018.

There was no mention at the hearing that Republican Gov. Hogan would likely veto any tax hike. He has promised to roll back as many of the tax increases from the O’Malley years as possible and brags that his proposed budget is balanced without any tax hikes.

Cutting smoking rates

During the hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, proponents said that the revenue resulting from this tobacco tax increase would help fund anti-smoking programs, which would — eventually — lead to fewer teens smoking and lower healthcare costs.

“There are plenty of reasons to oppose pieces of legislation. But the economics and the statistics behind this bill are irrefutable,” said Luedtke, whose mother was a longtime smoker and recently died from esophageal cancer.

“We need more money to offset the costs of health care,” Luedtke added. “We need more money for tobacco prevention. And we know that an increase in the tobacco tax will stop people from using tobacco, particularly young people from getting hooked from the first place.”

Maryland has raised the tax on cigarettes three times in the past 15 years, including a $1-per-pack increase in 2007.

“As a result, Maryland’s tobacco smoking rate has dropped by 32%, 40% amongst kids — double the national average,” said Vincent DeMarco, the president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids has estimated that Maryland’s 2007 tax increase prevented approximately 52,000 children from smoking, and got roughly 28,000 smokers to quit for good.

“Think in terms of children. Think in terms of your children, my children, my grandchildren,” a representative from the American Heart Association said. “This bill is about saving the lives of children.”

Black market, out of state sales would increase, opponents say

Oponents contended that the tobacco tax hike would not result in more people kicking the habit. Instead, it would make way for a burgeoning black market.

“Don’t kid yourselves,” said lobbyist Dan Doherty, “There’s going to be cross-bordered sales increasing more than they are now. There will be black market sales increasing more than it is now. Every person I know who still smokes cigarettes buys them out-of-state.”

Doherty said that if there is an increase in cross-state sales, Maryland will lose revenue. Instead of imposing a tax, he urged the legislature to crack down on minors who smoke.

“I think the time has come to really get tough on enforcement, on sales to minors, recognize that people who are 18 and older are adults and have a right to make their decisions,” Doherty added.

Proponents argued that this bill should be less about dollars and cents and more about people’s lives.

“There’s no reason not to move this bill except an unwillingness to face the voters and explain why it’s important,” Del. Luedtke said. “And I think the voters of this state understand.”

Maryland is currently tied for 12th highest cigarette tax rate in the nation, with Arizona, Maine and Michigan, at $2 a pack. New York is the highest at $4.35 a pack.

Neighboring Virginia has lowest cigarette taxes in the nation, 30 cents a pack, and West Virginia is close behind at 55 cents per pack. Black market smugglers caught in Maryland are often heading to New York from Virginia.

By Alessia Grunberger

28 Responses to Health Advocates Back $1 a Pack Increase in Cigarette Tax

  1. Homie on February 28, 2016 at 7:26 am

    People will continue to go over VA. and get the cigs.

  2. weusall on February 28, 2016 at 11:56 am

    In years to come tobacco will be outlawed and will take the place of pot , which will be legal.

  3. Fed up on February 28, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I would be interested in how much of the $ 3.3 billion dollars that MD recieved from the 1998 tobacco settlement actually went towards the stated goals these 2 delegates claim the tax increse will go towards. Im willing to bet a majority of the money went into the general fund. Im a non smoker, but a taxpayer. Tobacco tax has become a revenue stream. If every smoker in MD quit today, in 6 months, Annapolis would be looking at how to recoup the lost revenue…

    • Just The Facts ma'am on February 29, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Agreed, it’s the same relationship between the gas tax the government imposes at the pump and fuel economy mandates imposed by the government to the car manufacturer. When cars get better fuel economy the gas tax goes up due to fewer gallons purchased.

  4. LtownTaxpayer on February 28, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    So if these democratic legislators get their way, there would be $21 million per year being required to be put into the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program. Who runs or will run the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program. Sounds like a slush fund to me. Why would they want continuing money to be put into this fund when the stated objective of this tax is to reduce the number of smokers? If they believe the tax would reduce the number of smokers, why would the fund need $21 million per year? That makes NO sense. It sounds like they are trying to tie up revenue. And once again trying to thwart the Governor. Jerks!

    • Keepin It Real on February 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      It’s an easy way to generate tax revenue; taxing something most people find a disgusting habit.

      • Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm


  5. Anonymous on February 28, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    I haven’t smoked in thirty over thirty years and still think that law is ridiculous.

  6. Christina on February 29, 2016 at 8:31 am

    doesn’t bother me, not a smoker and will live longer because of it. :) hell, tax it 10 bucks more.

    • Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      You’ll cry a different tune when they decide more money is needed for unnecessary projects and decide to tax something you like. I say stop them now and if it can’t be done at least let the Governor decide where to spend the money

      • Christina on March 1, 2016 at 7:23 am

        Boo-Hoo….go buy a pack and put another nail in the coffin :) have a blessed day!

  7. Rocky on February 29, 2016 at 9:18 am

    So F’n STUPID! That will do ONE thing and only ONE thing – make more money off of the product for you-know-who. Maybe, (and only maybe) those who can’t afford $3 per pack will be “affected” – but sure as hell they won’t quit smoking because of it. It may entice stealing or interstate travel.

    Big Bro ALWAYS has his bill ready to extract yet another tax. Shameless and pitiful.

    The non-thinking liberals and health worshipers will jump on ANYTHING spun-up like this, “special” for their mindless, quick consumption.

    • Keepin It Real on February 29, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      I don’t disagree with your points, but “health worshippers”? No one thinks smoking is healthy, so we’re all “health worshippers” in regards to smoking.

  8. Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I realize tobacco products are a luxury and a choice but how far will they go in taxing things that they consider bad for us? Next will be a $1.00 increase on junk food and size limits on the cup we can get our sodas in. Things like this and the soda ban for kids in restaurants only proves they think we are not intelligent enough to make our own life choices or raise our own families. By the way, I am a smoker but except for the occasional pack to get me through all of my other packs have a Virginia tax stamp. I try my best to limit the amount of money I give to people who are just out to fleece me out of my money. It is almost $20 cheaper in VA so it is worth the $5 in gas to go buy a couple of cartons.

    • Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      LOL….first time I’ve ever heard that tobacco products are a luxury. I didn’t know a luxury amounted to poor health and early death.

      • Anonymous on March 1, 2016 at 7:39 am

        Well there certainly not a necessity, so what would you call them? At this point it is like burning money so I would say that is pretty luxurious. As for early death just like anything else, in moderation it will not harm you at all. There are plenty of things like that in the world. You won’t die from one drink of alcohol or one scoop of ice-cream but if you drank 20 shots a day or 5 gallons of ice cream a day you will probably die early. With the cost and the fact cigarettes are not necessary to live they are absolutely a luxury.

  9. Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Interesting. And if they succeed to get everyone to quit, where do you think the lost revenue will be made up? Right. A general tax increase for all of us, smokers or not.

    • Keepin It Real on February 29, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Then they can tax the hell out of alcohol. Orr pot, once that becomes fully legal.

      • Christina on March 1, 2016 at 7:28 am

        Colorado – 9 million in 1 month, 1.9 million to the schools and crime is down 10%

        alcohol/tobacco – kils

  10. Rich on February 29, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    If the goal is to have people cut back on or quit cigarettes and have the youth not smoking, turn the entire state of Maryland smokeless by prohibiting sales of all tobacco products like some counties in other states are dry (no liquor sales). But unfortunately those who are representing us in Annapolis are “addicted” to the nicotine tax (any tax really) and would nor could ever support such a move. I do not believe any of the politicians could survive the “Tax withdrawal symptoms”. Removing cigarettes from the state would drastically decrease the youths of Maryland from picking up the habit. Think of all of the empty space in the stores for other sale items. Also less for a potential thief to steal. Actually there are some benefits! Think about it!

    • Keepin It Real on March 1, 2016 at 10:34 am

      You think that will make people stop smoking? LOL Just like Prohibition stopped people from drinking right?

    • Christina on March 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      AMEN!! alcohol and tobacco kills!!

  11. Marlboro Man on March 1, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Tax candy, soda, chips, and all snacks $1 more on every pack and package. This will discourage fat people from eating those terrible foods that make them fat and costs the state money paying for all of their illnesses. Lets get all bad habits on a list and start taxing everything!

    Dumbest shyt I have ever heard.

    • Christina on March 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      you mad bro??

  12. Jester on March 1, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Have any of you tried to find out what $21 Million/year going to the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program is going to do or how it’s going to be spent? First off, just try to find out about the program (Google it) and tell me what you find. I have. You’ll find some classes being held in Baltimore and Kent (oh goodie) and some available literature (mostly PDF). Now, go back and look at the actual legislation HB71. Nothing (NOTHING) in there says what/how the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program is going to do with the $21 M-i-l-l-i-o-n per year they will receive. Let’s just throw gobs of $$$ into a program to make it looked like the Maryland Legislators are doing something productive with a tax rate from 30% to the greater of 74% tax increase on tobacco. (Oh! And here’s a little jewel for you from HB71: “Future year estimates reflect estimated net increases in general fund revenues and an increase of $11.0 million in general fund expenditures to ensure a total of $21.0 million in annual tobacco cessation program funding.” What would make you think the $21 Million to the “GENERAL FUND” would EVER make it to the program? We all know what happens to Maryland’s General Fund… ROFLMFAO!).

  13. Anonymous on March 2, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Nothing god ever comes from smoking…ever.

    • Keepin It Real on March 2, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      You might see God by smoking some really hard stuff. Maybe.

    • Anonymous on March 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Excuse me…good.