NC advocates urge $1-per-pack cigarette tax rise

Posted March 15, 2011 4:04 a.m. EDT
Updated March 15, 2011 2:03 p.m. EDT

— Anti-smoking advocates want to double North Carolina's cigarette tax, but they recognize their wish is unlikely to come true.

A coalition that includes the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association met Tuesday with legislators at the General Assembly. They introduced companion bills on Monday that would increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack.

North Carolina's cigarette tax is 45 cents per pack, one of the lowest in the country. The state last raised the cigarette tax two years ago, when it was increased by 10 cents a pack.

Anti-smoking advocates said the $1.45 per pack tax could generate about $300 million, keep teenagers from starting to smoke and reduce adult smoking. They also cited a statewide poll that showed 60 percent of adults favor a $1-per-pack tax increase.

"Clearly, North Carolina voters don't view the cigarette tax as they do other taxes," said Pam Seamans, policy director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health.

Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, said the added revenue from the tax would help stave off cuts to education and other programs in a tight budget year.

"The national average for cigarette taxes is now $1.45 a pack. Raising our tax by $1 will place us exactly at the national average," Weiss said. "Raising the cigarette tax is the responsible thing to do."

Republican legislative leaders say they have no plans to raise taxes, and that includes tobacco and alcohol.