$1 Per Pack Cigarette Tax Proposed

Wednesday, December 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma smokers would pay another dollar per pack under a committee recommendation to Gov. Frank Keating.

The Governor's Task Force on Tobacco and Youth called for the tax Tuesday, saying it would raise $200 million annually to curb the use of tobacco products. The tax increase would be subject to approval by the state Legislature.

Rep. Ray Vaughn, task force chairman, said the tax would lead to a 30 percent reduction in youth smoking and an 11 percent reduction in overall smoking rates.

Tobacco companies are spending an estimated $30 per Oklahoman to promote tobacco, said Vaughn, R-Edmond. Oklahoma is spending about $1per Oklahoman to prevent tobacco use or to help smokers quit, Vaughn said.

Don Wigley, a retired Oklahoma City grocer, was the only task force member to oppose the $1 increase.

``The normal, home-owned grocery store retailer is really going to take a hickey,'' Wigley said.

Raising the tax will send more people to American Indian smoke shops to buy their tobacco because the smoke shops' tax is much less, he said. Also, Oklahomans in areas bordering other states will go out of state to buy cigarettes, Wigley said.

This was reiterated by tobacco company lobbyists.

Kenneth Nance, a lobbyist for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., said the $1 tax increase won't work.

The more you increase taxes on tobacco, the more the Indian smoke shops love it,'' said Kenneth Nance, a lobbyist for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Lorillard Tobacco Corp. ``It just increases business of Indian smoke shops.''

Oklahoma's present cigarette tax is 23 cents per pack. The federal tax is 34 cents per pack, but will increase to 39 cents per pack in January, a tobacco industry spokesman said.