A few republican legislators stood today (Tuesday) and applauded democrat Governor Tom Vilsack’s call for an increase in the state tax on cigarettes. Senator Maggie Tinsman, a republican from Davenport, is among those supporting a hike in the tobacco tax. “We need to raise what I call the cigarette user fee,” Tinsman says. “I’m not calling it a tax because a tax to me is universal. This is — if you don’t smoke, you don’t pay the tax.” Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan is another republican who’s backing a cigarette tax hike, but he says they face an uphill battle because Senate Co-leader Stewart Iverson is adamantly opposed to it. “We have some hurdles to cross and we’ll take it on to the best of our ability to do what really is the right thing to do,” Johnson says. A tax increase will reduce the number of smokers in Iowa, according to Johnson. “We’re already seeing a decline in tobacco sales,” Johnson says. “We ought to give it a good, swift kick in the butt, so to speak, and raise the tax, see that use decline even further.” He argues a reduction in the number of smokers in Iowa will eventually reduce overall health care costs because people won’t suffer from smoking-related illnesses later in life. During his condition of the state speech this morning, Governor Vilsack called for an increase in the per pack tax on cigarettes. But Vilsack said he’d propose a specific amount later at the end of the month when he unveils his state budget outline.
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