Health Care for All wants to increase tax by $1

UPDATED 5:09 PM EST Nov 14, 2012

Health Care For All

In Maryland, a pack of cigarettes will cost you about $7. The group lobbying Wednesday for a cigarette tax hopes it’ll reduce teen smoking.

The goal is to help Maryland’s youngest smokers kick the habit.

“So this initiative, I believe, will really deter students and teens from buying cigarettes. They’re working hard trying to make money just to buy clothes that they may want and they’re not going to spend another dollar when they know other people don’t want them smoking anyway,” student Devon Ogburn said.

But those who insist on puffing, the extra $1 a pack would help pay the cost for public health programs. If it becomes law, this would be the fourth such tax on cigarettes since 1999.

“We are here today to build on that progress. We have a coalition of over 500 faith, community, labor, business and health care groups from across this state who are going to make this happen,” said Vince DeMarco, with Health Care for All.

The number of Maryland adult smokers has gone down more than 30 percent since the first tobacco tax was put on the books. There’s been a decrease for teens as well. The numbers are starting to rise among those using smokeless tobacco, but for now the health care group said its main focus is cigarettes.

“This $1 increase, I think, is fair. It is equitable and something that we should do and I would urge the General Assembly to move to enact it,” Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said.

Members of the faith community said they have their own reasons for supporting a cigarette tax.

“My two sons both started smoking when they were teenagers and my wife and I tried everything to stop them for doing that, but eventually the only thing that stopped them was economics when they realized it got too expensive for them,” said the Rev. Fred Weimert, with the Central MD Ecumenical Council.

“And whether we bend beneath the cross, bow before the Star of David, kiss the black stone of Mecca or simply stand before the infinite Is, the faith community stand united in saying raise this tax to save our children,” Bishop Douglas Miles said.

The health care group said two state lawmakers have already agreed to sponsor a cigarette bill when the session reconvenes early next year.

Last modified: November 15, 2012