Cigarette sales tax increase

By Laura Geller - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Would you support an increase in the cigarette sales tax if part of the revenue went to smoking reduction, Medicaid and other healthcare programs?

It's the question one coalition asked of 500 registered voters.

According to Virginians for a Healthy Future, 72% of those polled would favor an $.89 sales tax increase on cigarettes.

The group is hoping to get that message to Senators who are expected to take up a $.30 tax increase proposal in a committee meeting Tuesday. An $.89 sales tax increase would raise Virginia's total cigarette tax to $1.19.

“The sales tax increase is a win for public health because it decreases the number of people who smoke so health outcomes increase,” said Virginians for a Healthy Future's David DeBiasi.

He says there's one poll result smokers and nonsmokers alike may find interesting.

"43% of smokers wanted a tax increase. That's pretty amazing because it's going to hit them in their pocketbook during a time of difficult economic hardship," DeBiasi said.

Cigarette City owner Gayla Petery says those are not the results she's finding when she asks her customers if they'd support the increase.

"You're not going to find any of my middle class smokers here that have a job every week and pay food and gas and utilities and house payment, not gripe about the sales tax going up," said Petery.

Supporters say the increase makes sense because smokers cost the state more than 400 million dollars in Medicaid expenses each year. 

Petery, who's smoked for thirty years, says if that's the logic, the government should include other vices as well.

"If we all have to pay our fair share then liquor should be taxed. They should pay their fair share. The people that have a little too much weight on them from overeating, they should pay their fair share," Petery said.

The U.S. Congress is expected to pass a federal cigarette sales tax increase, as well. As of now, that would raise the national tax by $.61.

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