KHI News Service
TOPEKA — A bill that would triple the tax on cigarettes was introduced this week in the House Health and Human Services Committee.
House Bill 2672 would raise the tax from $.79 to $2.29 per pack. It would also increase the tax on other tobacco products from 10 percent to 78 percent.
Rep. Don Hill, an Emporia Republican who introduced the bill, said there were several compelling reasons for raising tobacco taxes.
“Increasing the cost of a commodity logically leads to reduced use and the consequent health benefits,” Hill said. “There’s also the reality that Kansas is well below the national average in terms of our tax rate on tobacco products. And then couple that with the fact that we’re broke.”
“The fact that we’re broke creates a plausible scenario toward the path of there being interest in the bill at some point in time,” he said. “But I have low expectation that the bill will do anything over the near term.”
Kansas’ cigarette tax is among the lowest in the U.S. The national average is $1.46 per pack.
If the cigarette tax were raised by $1.50, it would add over $100 million to annual state revenue while reducing smoking and the financial impact on the health system caused by sick smokers, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Kansas has not raised its cigarette tax since 2002, and has not raised the tax on other tobacco products since the 1970s.
In 2010, then-Gov. Mark Parkinson supported raising the cigarette tax by 55 cents to $1.34 per pack, which was then the national average. But the Legislature left that tax alone while raising the general sales tax.
Last year, a Senate committee held a hearing on a different tobacco tax increase proposal, but did not vote on the bill.
Linda DeCoursey, executive director of the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition, said a $1.50 increase in the cigarette tax would prevent 33,500 Kansas kids from becoming smokers and 27,800 adults would quit.
“When it comes to balancing budgets, voters prefer raising tobacco taxes to other tax increases or cutting crucial programs such as education,” DeCoursey said. “How many reasons do we need to raise the tobacco tax? Saving lives, helping to state’s budget deficit…it is a definite win-win-win for Kansas.”