Health care advocates are stoking the tax fires again with legislation that would make Maryland’s tobacco taxes some of the highest in the country.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard testimony Wednesday on SB 589, which would increase the tobacco tax rate from $2 for a pack of cigarettes to $3. The bill also calls for steep hike on all other tobacco products — from 30% to 95% of the wholesale price.
Products affected would include cigars, roll-your-own, and forms of smokeless tobacco.
The bill would give Maryland the fourth highest tobacco tax rates in the nation. No. 1 is New York at $4.35 per pack of cigarettes. (Cigarette smugglers nabbed by comptroller’s agents coming through Maryland from 30 cents-a-pack Virginia are often headed to New York.)
Maryland is currently ranked at 12th highest by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell, a Baltimore Democrat, testified with Montgomery County Sen. Richard Madaleno, one of 18 other co-sponsors, that the initiative would improve the health of Marylanders, and that some of the revenue generated by the new higher tax rates could be funneled into tobacco education programs.