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La. lawmakers propose increasing cigarette tax by 22 cents a pack

BATON ROUGE — Seven bills raising taxes on Louisiana tobacco products are before the House Ways and Means Committee.

If any of them are approved, it would be the second tobacco tax hike in as many years.

The bills break down this way:

— Three bills would increase the state tax on cigarettes from 86 cents to $1.08 a pack as proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The 22-cent increase would raise about $81 million a year and would take effect April 1. The measures are House Bill 3 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe; HB 14 by Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans; and HB 15 by Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches.

— Cox filed three other tobacco-related bills. HB 10 and 26 reduce state payments to tobacco wholesalers and vendors for collecting the tobacco tax and sending the money to the state. The bills would reduce the state payments from 6 percent of the taxes collected to 3 percent. HB 12 repeals any discount to licensed tobacco transactions. HB 18 by Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, reduces the discount to 5 percent.

Edwards has called the state Legislature into a special session to impose spending cuts or new taxes to close an estimated $850 million to $940 million budget gap for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The session started Monday and will end March 9.

Dealing with a fiscal crisis last year, the state increased the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack.

As of last month, the state’s 86-cent-per-pack tax ranked it 36th among the 50 states and District of Columbia, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

The 22-cent increase now proposed would push Louisiana to 32nd in the national ranking. The average state tobacco tax is $1.53 a pack. In addition, the federal government imposes a sales tax of $1.01 cents per pack.

A coalition of health advocacy groups called Invest in a Healthy Louisiana is lobbying for a $1.25-cent-per-pack increase, saying it will go much farther at dissuading people from smoking.

“Tobacco tax increases are one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids,” the group says in a campaign statement.

It claims a $1.25-per-pack increase would prevent 15,900 premature deaths caused by smoking, prevent 22,800 children from becoming smokers and save the state millions of dollars in Medicaid costs associated with smoking-related illnesses.

Members of the Invest in a Healthy Louisiana campaign include the American Heart and Lung associations, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living and Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs.

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