West Virginia Legislature Rejects Tobacco Tax Hike

By: Jillian Risberg Email
By: Jillian Risberg Email

UPDATE: 2/24/14 5:21 PM

They're paying it in most parts of the country, but smoke is rising on a West Virginia tobacco tax.

The current state tax on a pack of cigarettes in the Mountain State is 55 cents.

Senate Democratic leaders rejected raising that tax to a $1.55 a pack.

Dr. Dick Wittberg, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department says it's a real shame it didn't pass.

“With one third of the deaths in West Virginia attributable in some way to tobacco, the more things that we can do to make people quit and to keep young people from starting, the better off we'd be,” he says.

According to Wittberg, the dollar a pack increase would have done that.

If you're going to be successful passing this kind of legislation, you have to be very patient. He believes it will happen, eventually.
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Up in smoke.

The West Virginia Legislature rejects a tobacco tax hike outright.

The current state tax on a pack of cigarettes in West Virginia is 55 cents.

Senate Democratic leaders proposed raising that tax to $1.55 a pack.

Dr. Dick Wittberg from the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department says it's a real shame it didn't pass.

"The reason they often give for not passing it is that it's a regressive tax," he says. "That means it taxes lower income people more than higher income people. And I'd love to get that conversation reframed."

Wittberg says reframed to view the tobacco tax as a progressive tax, as opposed to regressive.

Studies show three times more people below the median income would quit smoking and those that continue to smoke would smoke less, so the health benefits are significant.


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