The argument is to make smoking more expensive so kids won't start, adults will quit, and those that go ahead and shell out more will help the state.
"Every year we delay, thousands more Kentuckians die, thousands more kids will get addicted," says Dr. Barbara Phillips who spoke at Wednesday's rally at the capital rotunda.
Some lawmakers passed a 25 cent hike in the state House. But others say that's not enough.
"We know changing it a little bit produces this much, why not go further and get as many to quit as possible, and others to never choose, to get the most dramatic results, said Courtney Otto, whose mother died of lung cancer, although she never smoked. Otto says doctors attributed her mother's death to second hand smoke.
Kentucky is facing a revenue shortfall. A higher tax is seen as a win-win. People kick the habit and the state rakes in millions.
"A 70 cent tax will generate $200 million the first year, and $170 million the second year of the biennium," said Gov. Steve Beshear, D-Kentucky.
The governor's initial solution to revenue problems was casino gambling. But while he won't declare that dead, it still lacks enough votes in the house. The Governor was against more taxes...but has since had a change of heart.
"I changed my mind," said the Governor, to a rousing round of applause.
Governor Beshear says he sees the tax as a solution to a $600 million dollar shortfall.
"That money will restore the reduction in K through 12 (education funding), and be able to raise teacher salaries."