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Easley Downplays Reports Of Cigarette Tax Hike

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley downplayed reports that his budget will call for a 50-cent per pack cigarette tax increase, but he did say it will break with recent North Carolina history.

"You'll see some increase in North Carolina, I anticipate and I'll ask for it," he said.

In the House, lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday, calling for an increase of 75 cents a pack.

Groups like North Carolina Alliance for Health argue a 75-cent hike on a pack of cigarettes is needed to price teens out of the market.

"Small amounts of increase in the tax do not do anything for health and then you just have a tax. It has to be meaningful. It has to be substantial," said Peg O'Connell, of the North Carolina Alliance for Health.

The bill also calls for a 30 percent tax hike on chewing tobacco.

Right now, North Carolina smokers pay the second-lowest tax in the country at five cents a pack behind Kentucky. Easley's budget is due out next week.

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