Stateline Story

Smokers Beware

Sixteen states raised their cigarette taxes last year to generate more revenue, and the trend shows few signs of slowing down in 2010. Georgia, Kansas, South Carolina and Utah are among the states that could force smokers to pay more as they try to balance their budgets.

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist will lead a rally on the steps of the Georgia Capitol today (March 9) to protest a legislative plan to raise cigarette taxes by $1 per pack, to $1.37. The event is sponsored by the parent company of Philip Morris, the nation's largest tobacco company, The Associated Press reported . Supporters of the measure rallied yesterday, arguing that the plan would raise $354 million for the state while reducing smoking rates.

Neighboring South Carolina might feel inclined to hike its cigarette tax because it has the lowest in the nation, at 7 cents per pack, according to The Post and Courier of Charleston . The state House is debating a 30-cent increase.

In Kansas, Governor Mark Parkinson wants to raise the cigarette tax from 79 cents to $1.34, a proposal he included in his beginning-of-session state of the state speech .   The Utah Legislature last week finalized a plan to hike the cigarette tax by $1, to $1.70 per pack, sending the measure to Governor Gary Herbert.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids , the average state tax on a pack of cigarettes is $1.34 per pack. Major tobacco-producing states generally charge much less: an average of 40.2 cents per pack, while the rest of the nation averages $1.47 per pack.

Tobacco taxes and other so-called "sin taxes" — such as those levied on alcohol — have proven a popular method of raising revenue for states, usually because they affect a smaller segment of the population than sales, income or business taxes.

The states that raised tobacco taxes last year are Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.