Health groups urge $1 tax increase per pack of cigarettes

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Health care representatives are urging Maryland lawmakers to consider a $1 tax increase for packs of cigarettes.

"Because of our past tobacco taxes, cigarette smoking in Maryland has dropped 32 percent, almost double the national average and saved tens of thousands of lives," Vincent Demarco, President of Healthcare For All Coalition, said.

Officials and lobbyists believe increasing the price of the cost of cigarettes again will curb teen smoking and generate more revenue for the state.

"Everyday 3,900 students, under the age of 18 are trying a cigarette for the first time. ... 950 of those students will become everyday regular smokers. That's appalling. That's not something that should be happening," Devan Ogburn, President of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, said.
“It really is a win-win-win for Maryland. It’s a win for public health,” Amy Barkley, of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said. “It’s a win for revenue. It does generate new revenue. And it’s a political win. Voters from all parties support this. … It will improve health care in Maryland.”

Supports said money raised from the proposed tax could save tens of thousands of lives.

What do smokers think?

"If you smoke, you're going to smoke. It's not going to change and I would say it's for the money and it's a little ridiculous I think," Drew Crimmel said.

Crimmel has been smoking for about three years and says she has tried to quit before. An increase wouldn't change things for her. Her friend, and fellow smoker, Melissa Aikens agrees. 

"I don't think it's anyone's place to tell other people, to raise taxes just to try to get them to stop smoking. I feel like everyone knows the risks and they do it anyway so I really don't think raising the taxes on cigarettes is going to change that," Aikens said.

"I treat cancer patients and I know that I shouldn't smoke and I don't think that raising taxes would really change that. I think it would just frustrate people. It would frustrate me, because they are already very high," Aikens added. 

However, not all smokers are against the idea.

"If they could get rid of tobacco altogether, that would be good but if they're going to keep it legal, why not tax it even higher? That'll deter younger people from even starting and hopefully it'll price me out of the market one day," Micheal Strawhand, a 20 year smoker, told ABC2.

Advocates of the tobacco tax increase are looking to have it approved in 2015.

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