January 7, 2009 - Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. endorsed a $2.30 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes, that would give Utah the highest state cigarette tax in the country with a goal of wiping out the remaining state sales tax on food.
Huntsman said that the $3 per pack tax (tax now 30 cents/pack, 34th lowest state tax rate in country, has not been increase since 2002) would bring in $120 million to $150 million in revenue, beyond the $60 million the current tax generates. This would be "more than enough" to eliminate the sales tax on food. That would cost about $75 million. In 2006 and 2007, lawmakers sliced the state's share of sales taxes on food from 4.75 cents to 1.75 cents. The governor's proposal would not affect local sales taxes on food purchases.
The governor does not intend for the cigarette tax increase to be used to offset the state's budget shortfall.
Improved health is cited by lawmakers who are already looking at increasing the cigarette tax. Utah has the lowest per-capita tobacco use rates in the United States, with about 170,000 adults and 20,000 18 or younger Utahns who smoke. More than 1,100 deaths were attributed to smoking last year in Utah, according to the state Department of Health.
Reference: Huntsman wants to push cigarette tax to $3 by Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1/7/2009 and Huntsman wants hefty smoke tax by Lisa Riley and James Thalman, Mormon Times - Deseret News, 1/7/2009.
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