Maryland Proposes Increase to Cigarette Tax
- Nov 28, 2012 | Gail Cole
Some people smoke because they like it and don't want to quit, no matter the health risks. Some people smoke in spite of the fact that they would like to quit, because quitting is hard. Mark Twain said he knew it was easy to quit smoking because he'd quit a thousand times. Novelist Russel Hoban said he didn't feel he was living unless he was killing himself by smoking.
For those who would like to quit but find it hard to do so, higher taxes on cigarettes may just give them the incentive they need to stop. At any rate, that's what some health lobbyists in Maryland are hoping. They're also hoping higher prices will prevent more teens from starting the habit.
They may be on to something. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
"Increasing the price of cigarettes reduces the demand for cigarettes, thereby reducing youth smoking initiation and cigarette consumption and decreasing the prevalence of cigarette use in the United States overall… ."
And while raising taxes is generally not popular, more Maryland voters approve the idea of raising taxes on tobacco products than not.
Vincent DeMarco, a Maryland health lobbyist, wants state lawmakers to raise the cigarette tax by one dollar during the 2013 General Assembly. Maryland's cigarette tax is currently $2.00 per pack. That's well below the highest cigarette tax in the nation, which is New York City's $5.85 per pack. It's also significantly more than Missouri's $0.17 per pack, the lowest such tax in the nation. If DeMarco gets his way, Maryland's $3.00 tax on a pack of cigarettes will become the sixth highest rate in the nation, just under Washington State's $3.025 per pack.
A $1 increase on the cigarette tax could lead to $100 million in additional revenue for the state of Maryland. Much of that revenue would go toward health programs, but some argue that the biggest advantage would be to the improved health of Maryland smokers.
Some worry that an increase to Maryland's cigarette tax will lead to an increase in cigarette smuggling. News releases issued by the Comptroller of Maryland reveal one contraband cigarette bust after another, and a spokesperson for the comptroller has said that "[raising the taxes on cigarettes without tightening the enforcement on smuggling is going to lead to more problems."
A different perspective is voiced by Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R), who feels cigarette taxes "are simply a way for the state to get more revenue from people who are addicted to tobacco products." He argues that if the higher taxes are really motivated by health and not money, Maryland should become "the first state in the nation to ban all tobacco." Earlier this year, Maryland raised taxes on other tobacco products.
The next Maryland General Session begins January 9, 2013. Those in favor of-and opposed to raising the cigarette tax will have the chance to make their arguments then.