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Officials: Tobacco tax helps keep kids smokeless

July 1st Tax increase expected to put $24 million in state general fund

WBAL TV, Baltimore NBC

October 24, 2012

Although it has only been in place for two months, Maryland health advocates said a state tax increase on noncigarette tobacco is working to keep the drug out of the hands of kids.

That tax hike went into effect on July 1. The goal was to steer young people away from tobacco products while at the same time putting millions of dollars into the state’s pocketbook.

“Many of our young people are becoming addicted to cigars and smokeless tobacco, and its killing them,” said Vincent DeMarco, with the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition.

That is what has convinced students at Baltimore’s Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School to lobby for an increase on the price of cigars and smokeless tobacco products. A year later, they’re among those tracking the progress.

“The producers of this harsh, degrading, cancer stick use the appearance of a candy wrapper and put them into a variety of flavors, attracting the attention of youth,” MERVO student Lia Harris said.

It costs more to buy cigars and smokeless tobacco. The price of a single cigar has gone up by 40 cents. The price rose as much as $2.50 for a package of cigars. The price of a can of smokeless tobacco has increased by 50 cents.

“Especially among younger people, tax increases and higher cost on products really changed habits. The younger people especially stop buying when these products go up in price,” Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said.

But why are so many young people buying cigars?

“Because of the colors of the packages and stuff, that’s what leads to them to do that,” MERVO student Morgan Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb said he believes the higher price will help.