January 22, 2011 - The call for an increased tobacco tax came as part of the release of the American Lung Association's annual tobacco report card: Maine earned a "C" in that report for its state tax of $2 on a pack of cigarettes.
Maine's state cigarette tax -- one of four areas evaluated in the report card -- is the second-lowest in New England. Only New Hampshire has a lower state cigarette excise tax in the region, $1.78. The federal tobacco tax is $1.01. Nationally, only nine states and Washington, D.C., earned higher tax grades than Maine in the American Lung Association report. Twelve states earned the same grade.
"Keeping the price high is the most effective strategy to reduce youth smoking," said Edward Miller, senior vice president for public policy at the American Lung Association of Maine. "We have 25 years of evidence."
Each time state and federal cigarette taxes have increased in the past 25 years, Lung Association data show, the number of cigarette packs sold per capita has fallen. The call for an increased tobacco tax comes as the most recent data tracking youth smoking -- from the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention -- show a jump in Maine's youth smoking rate for 2009.
After more than a decade of declines since the 1990s, when Maine's youth smoking rate hovered near 40 percent, the rate crept back up to 18.1 percent in 2009 from 14 percent in 2007.
In calling for a cigarette tax increase, the American Lung Association is likely fighting an uphill battle. Maine lawmakers haven't approved a tobacco tax increase since 2005, when the tax went up by $1. Former Gov. John Baldacci was rebuffed when he tried to push through another $1 increase in 2007, and he resisted calls to propose another increase later in his administration.
Governor Paul LePage said during the gubernatorial campaign that he would oppose an increase in the state's tobacco tax. LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt said in October 2010 that LePage would consider reducing the cigarette tax if the state could absorb the revenue loss.
References: Anti-smoking group wants higher cigarette tax
Group calls for $1.50 increase per pack, which would be the first in Maine since 2005 by Matthew Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org) Staff Writer, Morning Sentinel, 1/21/2011; Maine Anti-Smoking Advocates Push for Higher Tobacco Taxes reported by: Tom Porter, Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN), 1/20/2011
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