Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has proposed to raise taxes on cigarettes from 30 cents to $1 per pack in an effort to reduce youth smoking and raise revenues, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Jan. 26.
State officials hope the new tax will raise $81.5 million this year and $144 million in the next fiscal year. The increase is part of Beshear’s plan to address the $456-million deficit in the state budget. Kentucky’s current 30-cent-per-pack tax is about four times lower than the national average of $1.19 a pack
More than 25 percent of Kentucky youths smoke cigarettes, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the January 23, 2009 issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that Kentucky has the highest death rate from smoking in the nation.
State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian said that increasing the cigarette tax signifies “having the political will and the guts to say that this needs to be done for the health of our kids and revenue for our services.” Marzian, a Democrat from Louisville, said the increase was long delayed because of the state’s historic tobacco ties. The tax was last increased in 2005 from 3 cents a pack to 30 cents.
Those against the tax increase say that farmers and retailers would be hurt, and that smokers should not have to bear such a heavy financial burden in the ailing economy.
“Tobacco’s the reason why we still have somewhat of a family farm culture,” said Dean Wallace, executive director of the Lexington-based Council for Burley Tobacco. “And tobacco is probably the most heavily taxed product in the world.”