Lawmakers propose increase in Tobacco Tax

Louisiana currently has the cheapest cigarettes in the country, but that could all change under House Bill 63. It's the latest sin tax proposal targeting smokers and tobacco users. If passed it would raise the state tax on cigarettes from 36 cents a pack to $1.06 (a 194% increase).

The proposal would also increase the state tax for smoking tobacco from 33% to 49.5% of the invoice price. The tax rate on smokeless tobacco would go from 20% to 30% of the invoice price.

"They referred to it as a sin tax for people that smoke cigarettes. Now I think that is ridiculous. There is no such thing as a sin tax. If that's the case you gotta tax everybody not just people who smoke," said Istawa Angevine.

Many retailers fear it will hurt business. Lake Area Shop Rite and Tobacco Plus stores have started a campaign to nip the bill in the bud. Outside the stores a sign reads "No new taxes." Inside the stores customers are signing a petition against the bill. Debbie Luquette doesn't smoke but is against the legislation.

"Because they are taxing people to death. We have enough taxes. Why tax the 20% that smoke - that's discrimination. There is a tax on everything," said Luquette.

In addition to faxing the signatures to the local delegation, they're letting customers use their phone to call state lawmakers to voice opposition. Ben Smith is a smoker and signed the petition. Smith is used to paying the already high prices and knows first hand it can be much worse.

"I just moved from Connecticut where it's $8.00 per pack, where it used to be $5.00 per pack like it is down here. I'm afraid it is just growing and growing and growing. In New York City it is $10.00 per pack. I think it's outrageous for a pack of cigarettes," said Smith.

The legislation also aimed at forcing people to quit and think about the health risks of smoking. While Smith is fighting to keep the price down, he's also once again trying to kick the expensive habit.

"I didn't buy a pack of cigarettes today. I cheated and had a couple, but I am in the process of quitting. Because at $35 a week, $140 a month and upwards of $1,000 a year. It would be much better on my pocket," said Smith.

Others admit no matter what they regulate the price to be, they'll likely keep digging deeper in their pockets.

"They can raise the price. I am going to still smoke," said Angevine.

House Bill 63 has yet to be discussed and was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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