The Iowa Senate voted this past week to raise the state tax on cigarettes by a dollar per pack. But the bill, which may be debated next week in the Iowa House, also raises the state tax on other tobacco products. The bill would raise the tax on "moist tobacco" products like Skoal, Copenhagen and Red Man. Moist tobacco is sometimes called snuff, dip, or chew.
You’ve probably heard that phrase "a little pinch between your cheek and gum." It’s generally sold in tins that have just over one ounce of tobacco. If the Senate’s tax bill becomes law, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says every ounce of moist tobacco would be subject to a state tax of $1.19. That makes it "consistent and proportional" to the proposed increase in the cigarette tax, according to Gronstal.
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says it’s all about making tobacco products more expensive so kids won’t be so tempted. "I have learned that there are some cans of moist snuff tobacco that are selling for as low as 49 cents per can on specials that the tobacco retailers are promoting," McCoy says. "When a kid can buy a can of snuff for 49 cents or a Snickers candy bar for 75 cents or a Big Gulp for a buck, then we’ve got to do something."
Under current law, cans of moist tobacco are taxed on their price, not on the weight of the product and McCoy says that’s not fair. McCoy says the state tax on a carton of Marlboros, for example, isn’t different from the tax on a pack of Pall Mall’s, which are cheaper. The state tax — per cigarette — would be just under 14 cents if the bill that cleared the Iowa Senate this week becomes law.