Maryland began to increase taxes on smokeless tobacco and cheap cigars in July this year. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids considers that tax increases will reduce the number of youth using smokeless and smoking tobacco by one third.
The tax jump that was implemented in May increases the tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars from 15 percent of wholesale value to 30 percent. At the same time, the tax for cigarillos raises from 15 percent to 70 percent.
Over the 15 years, cigarette smoking amongst youth dropped by 40 percent in Maryland. There is currently a $2 dollar tax per pack.
Although Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said increasing the cigarette tax was effective in discouraging youth from buying cigarettes, they switched to cigarillos or “little cigars”. The tax for cigars remained at 15 percent and it led to an 11 percent hike in teens smoking cigars. Cigarillos could be purchased for as little as 69 cents to $1.50 at convenience stores and gas stations.
Little cigars are available in various flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
The tax jump increased the price of a cigarillo by 40 cents and five-packs by roughly $2.00.
Peter Hamm, former tobacco user and national communications director for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that such price will discourage smoker from buying tobacco products as they need to spend more money.
Tax hike an attempt to raise revenue
Del. Mike Smigiel, R-Cecil, expressed his opinion against the tax increase and said that it is an attempt of the state to raise more income.
The Other Tobacco Product tax income is expected to raise 25 percent in 2013 and add $24 million to general funds in 5 years in spite of the projected drop in sales.
Smigiel said that the citizens of Maryland will run out of the state to buy tobacco products in neighboring states to save money. He added that Maryland would reach teens more effectively through education rather than high taxes.
Smigiel said that the government is not able to make a choice for youth. “A tax is not going to discourage teens from smoking tobacco products. Some of the peer pressure and ban of the advertising is much more effective than obliging someone to leave the state to buy tobacco for the week.”
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