Cigarette tax hike proposed

By Kate Nash: The Santa Fe New Mexican


Anti-tobacco advocates say they have one way to help the state solve
its budget crisis and help prevent smoking: Raise the tobacco tax in
the state by $1 a pack.

The idea could bring in $29.7 million in the first year.

Although a bill has yet to be introduced this session to raise the tax, there already is public support.

A survey released Thursday by the American Cancer Society Cancer
Action Network and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that 76
percent of the registered voters polled support a proposal to raise the
tax by $1. Seventy-nine percent supported an increase of 60 cents per
pack.

Fifty-seven percent of smokers surveyed said they would support the $1 increase. The current tax per pack is 91 cents.

The survey by Research and Polling Inc. also showed that 64 percent
of those support raising the cigarette tax as a way to deal with the
state’s project $450 million shortfall this year. That amount had the
highest support among other ideas that included increasing vehicle
registration fees or gas or property taxes, or decreasing funding to
state schools and health care programs.

The survey questioned a random sample of 500 registered likely New Mexico voters earlier this month.

Anti-tobacco advocates say smoking contributes to millions of
dollars in public health spending that could be saved or spent
elsewhere.

“This survey shows you that the public is very much in tune with not
only the problems, but the potential solutions,” said Nathan Bush, vice
president for government relations for the American Cancer Society
Cancer Action Network.

The money generated by the tax could go to the state’s general fund,
or to smoking cessation, education or health care programs, depending
on how a proposal is crafted.

Bush said a proposal to raise the tax won’t make everyone happy.

“This is a big bill that will cause big heartburn for the tobacco
industry lobby. For that reason, lawmakers are taking this proposal
very seriously and are having the necessary conversations before moving
forward with one or more tobacco tax bills,” he said.