They're expected to gather at Lawyer's Mall at 12:00 Noon on Wed.
A rally in favor of increasing taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco will be taking place in Annapolis on Wednesday. Individuals and organizations, such as Smoke Free Maryland, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Med-Chi and AARP, will be gathering at Lawyers Mall beginning at 12:00 noon.
"We have made tremendous progress over the past decade in reducing cigarette smoking by kids by increasing the cigarette tax," says Vinnie DeMarco, President of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative. "And the money from that cigarette tax has helped expand healthcare to 300,000 parents, children and seniors. So it's been a great victory for public health."
There are two bills in the Maryland Senate dealing with the tobacco tax. One sponsored by Senator Jenny Forehand would increase the levy on a cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. The current tax on cigarettes is $2.00 per pack, but Forehand's bill would up that to $3.00. The tax on cigars and other tobacco products is 15% of the wholesale price. Her legislation would increase the price of a single stoggie costing $1.49 to $2.20. The money raised from the increase in the levy would be used for tobacco-prevention programs.
Since the tax on a pack of cigarettes last went up in 2007, DeMarco says it has discouraged a lot of young people from puffing on cigarettes. However, some have gone to lesser-priced cigars and smokeless tobacco. "While cigarette smoking has declined by 40% because of cigarette tax increases, cigar smoking has actually gone up by kids, and that can be very deadly," he says.
Critics say any hike in the tobacco tax will not raise the needed revenue, and many who smoke will go to neighboring states to buy cigarettes, cigars and other products. "When the cigarette tax went up by $1.00 per pack in 2007, a little bit of that happened, but not a lot," DeMarco responds. "Mostly, kids smoked less, adults smoked less and we saved lives."
If these proposed increases in the tax on cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco are approved, they will go into affect on July 1st.