Groups Pursue Maryland Cigarette Tax Increase
Two statewide coalitions began a campaign Thursday to persuade the legislature to increase Maryland's cigarette tax by 70 cents a pack.
The groups - Smoke Free Maryland and the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative - said revenues from the tax increase should be used to improve health care in Maryland.
Vincent DeMarco of Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative said cigarette sales in Maryland have dropped 16 percent since the tax was increased by 30 cents a pack two years ago.
Despite that sales drop, state revenues from the tax increased 63 percent during the same period, DeMarco said. He said the figures on sales and revenue came from the state comptroller's office.
Gov. Parris Glendening sought a $1 increase in 1999, but the legislature agreed only to a 30-cent-per-pack increase.
"We are here to finish the job," DeMarco said.
The increase to be sought at the legislative session beginning in January would increase the tax from 62 cents a pack to $1.32. DeMarco estimated it would generate about $200 million a year in new revenues.
He was joined at the news conference by representatives of Smoke Free Maryland and the state medical society.
Michael Preston, executive director of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of Maryland, said doctors see the tragic health problems caused by tobacco every day.
While the organization would welcome additional revenues to improve health care in Maryland, the purpose of supporting a tax increase is to reduce smoking.
"If the tax revenue goes away, that will be a good thing," he said.