The proposal to raise the state cigarette tax by one dollar a pack has passed another legislative committee. Anti-tobacco groups are pushing for the increase. Democrat representative Pam Jochum of Dubuque says the increase will improve the health of Iowans. Jochum says the reason they’re trying to increase the tax is that "mountains of information" shows the increase will keep young people from starting to smoke and many others will quit.
Jochum says the additional money will help cover the Medicaid shortfall created by smokers. Jochum says the state collects about 86-million dollars a year in tobacco taxes, but spend about 300-million dollars a year for smoking related illnesses. But Republican representative Tom Sands of Columbus Junction says such a hefty increase will create a real hardship for smokers.
Sands says: "What about all the smokers out there that won’t quit? In all honesty, most of them won’t, because the can’t. Or they will decide that they don’t want to quit. So, we’ve just taken more dollars out of their pocket, in all honesty, to fund the growth of government, and that really isn’t fair either."
The measure passed the House Ways and Means Committee 13-12 and Sands says Republicans will push for a smaller increase when the bill is before the full House. The state tax on a pack of cigarettes is now 36 cents. Supporters say the one dollar increase is expected to raise 140-million dollars in extra taxes.
The increase has already passed a Senate commiteee and key legislators say they expect the issue to pass the full House and Senate.