Budget conference committee reportedly debating cigarette tax increase; coalition: less than $1 pack "just a tax"

03/30/2018 01:35 PM

Lawmakers on the budget free conference committee have been meeting behind the scenes, and there seems to be talk of including a tax increase inserted into the revenue bill as part of a broader agreement.

Sources tell Pure Politics the House and Senate leaders are debating a 50 cent excise tax increase on the price per pack of cigarettes, an idea first floated by House Republicans in their version of the two year state budget. There’s also talk that Republicans could put a full tax reform bill on the table on Monday.

The Courier-Journal first reported on Thursday about the cigarette tax discussion.

Adding the tax would generate around $240 million dollars over the biennium, likely in an effort to hold across the board cuts at bay as lawmakers pump more money into the retirement systems, which face billions in unfunded liabilities.

But the tax, is only a tax and won’t have positive health outcomes, advocates warn — unless the increase on the price per pack is bumped another dollar,

In order to reduce smoking among children, teens, and pregnant women, and achieve intended health outcomes, the excise tax on cigarettes must be raised by at least a $1 per pack, the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow said Friday in a news release.

The coalition warned that raising the excise tax would raise revenues, but won’t bring the positive health outcomes or fiscal outcomes that reducing smoking would bring.

A $1 increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes will create a large enough and consistent price increase to lead 29,400 Kentucky adults to quit smoking. The price hike also will keep 23,200 youth currently younger than 18 from ever starting, the Coalition said in the release.

The long-term outcome of curbing smoking is estimated to save $1.07 billion in tobacco-related health care costs.

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