Las Vegas Sun

May 19, 2019

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Bill takes aim at smokers to help solve budget woes

Sun Coverage

CARSON CITY – Cigarette and cigar smokers and chewing tobacco users are the target of a bill introduced Friday in the Senate seeking a major boost in taxes.

“This is more than a tax,” says Amy Beaulieu of the Health Investment Partnership. “We’re trying to save people’s lives."

Senate Bill 386 would boost the state tax on a pack of cigarettes from 80 cents to $2. The tax on cigars and chewing tobacco would double.

Nevada ranks 35th among states in its rate of taxing tobacco, said Beaulieu, who added the proposal would raise an additional $85 million next year and $350 million over five years.

Asked about facing a veto by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Beaulieu said, “There’s a long way to go. We’ll see what happens.”

The tax, she said, would be aimed at preventing Nevada youth from becoming smokers and to discourage adults from continuing to smoke.

Taxes collected on cigarettes have dropped by 2.8 percent and it is expected to fall another 2 percent next fiscal year, said Russell Guindon, fiscal analyst for the Legislature.

The Economic Forum in December forecast cigarette tax collections at $84.3 million next fiscal year with a drop to $82.8 million in fiscal 2013.

Tax collections on smokeless products are expected to rise by 0.9 percent next fiscal year to $10.1 million and then by 2.2 percent to $10.3 million in 2013, Guindon said.

Of the current cigarette tax, per pack, 70 cents goes to the state and 10 cents is distributed to local governments. The bill would take part of the amount going to local governments and send it to the state to finance tobacco prevention programs.

Beaulieu said the tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco is based on a percentage of the price, so amounts would differ depending on the price of the product.

Beaulieu, who is director of the American Lung Association in Nevada, said a poll conducted of 800 registered voters found 73 percent were in favor of increasing the tax on tobacco products to help solve the financial problems of the state.

The Senate Revenue Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for April 5.

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