Tax On Cigarettes Could Jump 75% In Maine
The price of cigarettes and other tobacco products could be on the rise in Maine. It’s part of a plan to keep kids from picking up the habit.According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 3 cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use. Conventional wisdom says the best way to turn that around is to stop kids from starting. That was the message being sent at a state house rally supporting legislation that would jack up the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products in Maine.”The tobacco industry knows that they’re always creating new products to get around the laws,” said Hilary Schneider of the American Cancer Society. “They attract what are known as replacement users which are youth.”Thanks to a loophole in the tax code, other tobacco products, like loose tobacco used to roll cigarettes and little cigars, are taxed less than cigarettes, making them easier for kids to afford. Folks at the American Cancer Society say that fact is not lost on those in the tobacco industry.”As you can see, they’re packaged in bright color paper with flavors like grape. Some of them look like lipstick,” Schneider said. “The package and the price differential really make them attractive to youth and what we’re seeing is an up tick of youth use in these products.”Two bills were introduced to the Taxation Committee that supporters say would put tobacco products out of the price range of kids.One proposal would up the tax on a pack of cigarettes an additional $1.50 on top of the current $2.00 per pack, a 75% increase. The current $2.00 per pack tax is the second lowest in New England. The other bill would raise the taxes on other tobacco products bringing them closer to the tax on cigarettes. Right now, a pack of 20 little cigars is only taxed at 30 cents per pack.Opponents of the bills, like Gena Canning a Managing Partner at Pine State Trading who distribute among other things, tobacco products in 7 states, said this type of legislation is already being considered on the federal level. The Obama Administration has put forth a bill that would equalize the tax on other tobacco products, and the tax on cigarettes would go up 94 cents a pack.Canning says if this being addressed at the federal level makes it far less problematic for businesses than if this tobacco tax hike were to happen at the state level in Maine.”That creates a tax at the supply chain level. So if I’m trying to do business against people who are in Pennsylvania where there’s a zero OTP (other tobacco products) tax,” Canning told lawmakers. “Where they sell more other tobacco products out of the state of Pennsylvania than all of the New England states combined. If the Obama administration puts it at the federal supply level, that at least creates a legitimate playing field of which legitimate business people can do business.” Canning also gave the committee an idea of what the increase means to adult consumers who opt to roll their own cigarettes to save money, holding up a bag of loose tobacco.”So this would go from $14 to somewhere in the neighborhood of $60.”Other opponents pointed out that if these measures pass it would simply drive kids to buy their tobacco products online where there’s little to no policing of underage consumers.Lawmakers will hold a work session in the coming weeks to take their first votes on the proposals.