General Fund, Cancer Research Among Winners in Approval of Tobacco Tax Hike
Smokers will pay more to fight smoking and cancer and they will give a little more to fix Utah's general budget gap under an 18-cent tobacco tax passed Tuesday by lawmakers.
The tax increase -- proposed to go as high as 30 cents a pack -- represents a compromise between lawmakers on the hunt for extra dollars in a tight budget year, tobacco lobbyists who fought to lower the bite and advocates for increased funding for health sciences, smoking cessation and cancer research.
In final amendments approved Tuesday, $13.78 million in estimated yearly revenue would be divided four ways: $3.03 million for cessation, $2.07 for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, $2.89 million for the University of Utah Health Science Center, and $5.79 million for the general fund.
The measure raises the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 51.5 cents to 69.5 cents.
"This is about a problem we have that all of us pay a price for," said Sen. David Steele, R-West Point. "The incentive is to help people by way of a deterrent . . . I certainly don't apologize about that deterrent."
The House agreed to the Senate amendments on a 40-28 vote.