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Cig tax hike backers revising bill

A coalition of 25 organizations, from the American Lung Association in Idaho to the Idaho Association of Counties, is backing a $1.25 per pack increase in Idaho's cigarette tax, Heidi Low, coalition spokeswoman, told the Legislature's Health Care Task Force today. “We don't yet have legislation, we're still hammering out a couple of the details,” Low told lawmakers. Among those: Backers are working to make sure the bill sends the proceeds from the tax hike not to the state's general fund, but specifically to smoking-related health costs and smoking cessation efforts, she said.

Idaho's current cigarette tax of 57 cents a pack, now lower than just eight other states, would rise to $1.82 under the proposal; the national average is $1.46. Washington's is currently $3.025; Oregon's is $1.18; Nevada's is 80 cents; Utah's is $1.70; Wyoming's is 60 cents; and Montana's is $1.70. Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, told Low, “This puts my small business owners that are close to the border with Montana at a disadvantage, and I'm going to be hearing from them if this is the bill that goes forward.”

Low said “conservative” estimates show the increase would bring in $51.1 million a year and decrease youth smoking by 20 percent.

Favorable poll boosts campaign for cigarette tax hike

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how Idahoans overwhelmingly support raising state taxes on cigarettes and alcohol to address the state’s budget deficit, according to a new statewide poll, even as they oppose other tax hikes and spending cuts. The poll, conducted by Moore Information, was released today by a coalition of health groups that launched a push for a big hike in Idaho’s 57-cent-per-pack cigarette tax in the coming year. Backers said a $1.50-per-pack hike would be a “huge win for Idaho’s public health.”

Rep. Lake backs cig tax hike

Idaho House Tax Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, said he supports a big hike in the  state’s cigarette tax in the coming year, and may co-sponsor the legislation. “I do support it,” he said. “They wanted to bring a bill to raise cigarette taxes last year and I wouldn’t let them, told them no, that last year was all about reducing the base budget, because we had to do that,” Lake told Eye on Boise today. “So when they approached me this year, I said yes, we’d hear the bill.” Lake said he’s not sure about a health coalition’s proposal for a $1.50 per pack increase, however. “I’m not sure that that amount will fly. But I think that we will have a bill that will increase cigarette taxes, yes. Whether it’s a dollar and half or a dollar or some other figure I don’t know.”

Lake said he agrees with a new poll that shows Idahoans strongly backing the move. “I think people do support it,” he said. But he said he’s reluctant to rely on a cigarette tax increase as a “revenue enhancer.” Instead, he said it’s warranted on public health grounds. “I’ve seen the figures on what they think the reduction in teenage smoking would be, and I think that alone makes the project worthwhile,” Lake said.

New poll: Idahoans overwhelmingly back big hike in cigarette tax

A new poll conducted by Moore Information shows a startling 71 percent of Idahoans favor increases in state taxes on tobacco and alcohol to address Idaho’s budget deficit, and 73 percent support a $1.50 per pack increase in the cigarette tax to preserve Medicaid funding and fund tobacco-cessation and youth prevention programs. A broad coalition of Idaho health groups, from the American Cancer Society to the Idaho Medical Association to the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, released the poll today and launched a new push for a big hike in Idaho’s cigarette tax in the coming year.

Dr. Ted Epperly, a family physician from Boise, said smoking is the No. 1 most preventable cause of death in the United States, yet 5,000 Idaho kids try their first cigarette each year and 1,500 Idahoans die from smoking each year. “By raising the state’s tobacco tax, Idaho will reduce smoking … especially among kids,” Epperly said. “The science could not be more clear.”

That’s not all - the groups project that a $1.50 per pack increase in Idaho’s cigarette tax also would bring in an additional $52.3 million to the state’s treasury, even after accounting for the drop in cigarette sales it’d bring about. That money, Epperly said, could help shore up Medicaid, “a program that is in crisis at this time.” Epperly said the state also would see reduced health care costs as the number of smokers drops - an estimated $8 million in savings just in the first five years.

Said Epperly, “This will be a huge win for Idaho’s public health.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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