RALEIGH, N.C. — A new
poll shows big support for a cigarette tax increase and lottery in North Carolina.
More than 56 percent were in favor of raising the tax on cigarettes. Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, said raising the tax on cigarettes would help break the habit.
"We know if you substantially increase the cost of cigarettes, it will cause a reduction in smoking. The impact on farmers in North Carolina would be negligible," she said. "A disproportionate number of young people in North Carolina smoke, compared to other states, so that can reduce and prevent them from smoking."
Rep. Sam Ellis, R-Wake, and his wife are both former smokers who realized the health risks. However, he does not support raising the price a single dime.
"At some point, we got the message, but we did it without a tax increase," he said.
Seventeen percent of the people polled backed a 10 percent per pack increase. In a close second, more than 14 percent support raising taxes by 70 cents a pack.
Virginia recently raised its cigarette tax to 30 cents a pack, and it also has a lottery. More than 84 percent of those polled said North Carolina citizens should be able to vote on a lottery.
"Let the voters decide is a strong argument, but under the state Constitution, there is a strong argument that it's unconstitutional to put this to a referendum, and the last thing North Carolina needs is a lawsuit," Weiss said.
Voter Rudy Locklear thinks that argument is an excuse. Lawmakers could change the Constitution.
"If they were listening to their constituents, we would have had a lottery a long time ago," he said.
Gov. Mike Easley wants a lottery to help education. Currently, all states surrounding North Carolina have lotteries.