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Anti-Smoking Groups Want Tax on Cigars

Anti-smoking forces upset over little cigars and candy-flavored tobacco marketed to kids said Tuesday they will push for a 55-percent tax on all non-cigarette tobacco products.

The Investing in Tobacco-Free Youth Coalition said when legislators raised the state cigarette tax in 2003 and 2005, they did not include smokeless products.

"Tobacco products like little cigars, cigars and smokeless tobacco are cheap and come in candy flavors that appeal to kids. Their appeal to youth and the tobacco industry's aggressive marketing of them in Ohio have led to a growing problem in the state," Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association of Ohio, said in a statement.

Under current law, the tax rate on smokeless tobacco products is 17 percent. The coalition's proposal is to tax those products at the same rate as cigarettes, or 55 percent of the wholesale price, and keep the two at the same tax rate in the future.

For a $3.50 pack of cigarettes, the tax would be $1.93.

Between 2000 and 2006, cigarette smoking among high school students has declined but there has been no similar decrease in the use of smokeless varieties of tobacco, organizers said.

Backers of the tax hike said young people, blacks and Appalachian Ohioans are at the highest risk from easy access to smokeless tobacco products. Studies have shown that one-third of Appalachian males chew tobacco, compared with a statewide prevalence of 7 percent.

House Speaker Jon Husted said Tuesday that the House is unlikely to support an increase in the smokeless tobacco tax.

Source: Houston Chronicle