At Pa. rally, tobacco opponents tout cigarette tax benefits

    (AP file photo)

    (AP file photo)

    Anti-tobacco advocates from the American Cancer Society are calling on Pennsylvania lawmakers to levy an increased cigarette tax as part of the 2017 budget.

    The group gathered in the Capitol Rotunda Friday to appeal for Pennsylvania’s cigarette tax to increase by at least one dollar.

    Diane Phillips, with the American Cancer Society’s Pennsylvania Action Center, said any smaller hike would be ineffective.

    “An increase of less than a dollar per pack in the tax on cigarettes will have little to no direct health impact on Pennsylvanians,” she said. “One thing we have learned from other states is that smaller increases can be discounted away.”

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    Phillips also called the tax a “politically popular” idea.

    “Right before the start of session we commissioned a poll with Public Opinion Strategies — the results were very strong,” she said. “Seventy-two percent of voters, Republicans and Democrats alike, favored increased tobacco taxes as one of the ways to balance our budget.”

    The group also called for a 40 percent tax increase on other tobacco products.

    House GOP Spokesman Steven Miskin said several options are being negotiated, including a levy on cigars.

    He said the commonwealth is something of an outlier when it comes to cigar taxes, noting that “Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the country that does not currently tax cigars. So that, I know, is something proponents have been bringing up quite a bit.”

    Florida is the only other state without a cigar tax.

    Pennsylvania is also home to several large cigar companies. The state’s agriculture industry counts tobacco as one of its crops.

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