Cigarette tax hike has some smokers burning
LEWISTON, Maine (AP) Some Maine smokers are burning over Gov. Angus King's proposed tax increase on cigarettes.
King's proposed two-year budget calls for a 26-cent tax increase on cigarettes, from 74 cents to $1 a pack, to help closed an anticipated $200 million budget shortfall.
The increase would come only a year after King doubled the state cigarette tax, and has some smokers accusing the government of targeting people who can't control their addictions.
''We're being picked on,'' said Jim Jervais, 53. ''It's a disease. They know we're hooked, and they're killing us with these taxes.''
For Mary Jane Newell of Oxford, the tax hike adds to insult to injury. She's still angry about a state law that banned smoking in Maine restaurants, and says King should target other vices, such as alcohol.
''We're made to feel like second-class citizens,'' she said. ''Why don't they bother the drinkers? They kill people.''
For every argument and complaint from smokers, however, there seems to be a statistic in support of the proposed tax. King said raising the tax to would generate $22 million a year for the state, money that could help offset rising medical costs.
He also cited statistics that show the number of people starting to smoke has dropped 27 percent since the last time the cigarette tax was raised.
The tax is also being championed by anti-smoking groups, who are hopeful that more expensive smokes will lead to more people giving up the habit.
''People would come in and say, 'That's it. I've got to quit. It's not worth it anymore,''' said Kathy Baillargeon, a prevention coordinator at Tobacco Free L-A. ''They feel like it's their final push. It's another incentive. It actually turns out to be a positive thing for some people.''