Cigarette Tax Hike Touted

The big issue on the plates of Kentucky's legislature this session, a proposed 70 cent hike to the cigarette tax.

The governor says the increase will take a bite out of Kentucky's massive budget shortfall. Today some organizations said why stop there? they want an even higher tax.

Health officials say much of their work..in pushing for higher cigarette taxes..is to keep kids from lighting up.

"This horrible toll will continue if we don't act aggressively, because more than 20,000 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year in Kentucky," Dr. Michael Bousamra. Groups like Kentucky Action, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society say many Kentuckians believe making tobacco more expensive through even a dollar tax increase is the way to go.

But such a drastic increase is going to be a tough sell in the General Assembly, Even getting it out of the House is going to be difficult.

"It's safe to say that 70 cents is a bit of a stretch it appears at this point," House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.

"But I say, why not a dollar? the national average is a $1.19, we've been sitting here at 30 cents for three years and before that at 3 (cents)," Kentucky ACTION advocate Paul Kiser says.

Governor Beshear says a 70 cents tax could put millions into Kentucky's general fund, but health advocates say the tax has other benefits.

"We need to do our job of convincing them this is not an economic incentive. This is a health incentive. The only way to get health benefits is to significantly increase the price," Kiser says. And tax backers say support for the tax hike is evident among both Democrats and Republicans.

Last year the state house passed a 25 cent cigarette tax hike, but the proposal failed in the senate.


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