Utah - lawmakers approve one dollar increase in tax on a pack of cigarettes - now measure goes to governor..

Surprise, surprise - the Utah Legislature has given final approval to a $1 per pack increase to the state's cigarette tax, sending the measure to Gov. Gary Herbert, whose opposition to a tax increase this session will be tested. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, who has been fighting for years to raise Utah's cigarette tax, said he can't speak for the governor, but he expects he'll sign the legislation. "Of course he'll sign it. He watches out for the best interest of the state, and this is in the best interest of the state," Christensen said.

The governor's spokeswoman said Herbert would give the tobacco legislation due consideration when it reaches his desk. Those who have followed the issue believe he will sign it. Herbert has said that he opposes any tax increase, and that includes a cigarette tax. But vetoing the bill would blow a $44 million hole in the tentative budget agreement

Utah's tax was 69.5 cents per pack, ranking 38th in the country, including Guam and Puerto Rico, according to figures from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Raising it to $1.70 per pack would give Utah the 18th highest tax, and a higher rate than any of the surrounding states except Arizona. The tax would generate an estimated $44 million in new revenue for the state and legislators have already built the money into their budget for the coming year, using it to address critical programs that had been on the chopping block.

A poll conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune before the session indicated that 70 percent of Utah voters support raising the tax to $2.

Utah has the lowest number of cigarette smokers in the country, according to a survey showing that smoking rates nationwide have moved up slightly for the first time in 15 years.

Utah has the lowest number of cigarette smokers in the country> Only 9 percent of Utahns smoke, compared to about 21 percent of their fellow Americans. The national figure is up slightly from the 19.8 percent who reported themselves as smokers the previous year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Utah has fewest smokers, but U.S. rate is up by James Thalman,
Deseret News, 11/12/2009.)

Reference: Lawmakers OK $1 per pack cigarette tax hike by Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune, 3/5/2010.

Other Utah news briefs:
Utah - increase tobacco excise tax by $1.00 - we doubt it will happen..;
Proposal to increase Utah cigarette tax falters..;
Utah - philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., supports big boost in tobacco tax..;
Utah Bars Go Smokefree January 1, 2009..;
Utah moves from a tax based on the percentage of sales price to one based on the weight - independent of price of smokeless tobacco product..