This June, lawmakers in California will debate a bill that would increase the state cigarette tax by a whopping $1.50 a pack, the Los Angeles Times reported. Those in favor of the bill say the increase would bring in $1.2 billion to the state each year.
For years, tobacco companies have successfully fought similar attempts to increase the cigarette tax. Frank Lester, a spokesman for Reynolds American Inc., said measures to hike tobacco taxes in the state have not passed partly because its residents view such taxes as unfair.
But next month, the state will be facing its most serious financial crisis in recent history. Not only does the state face a $21.3 billion deficit, but it is scheduled to be without funds come July. “Given the serious budget shortfall we face, this is the year to pass the tobacco tax,” said state Sen. Alex Padilla.
The tobacco industry sees California as a crucial market and a trendsetter for anti-tobacco ideas that can spread through the country, Beverly May, regional director of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, a Washington anti-smoking group, told the Los Angeles Times.
“The tobacco companies view California very much as a battleground state,” she said. “California is a state that they look at as important to do everything they can to have influence in any way they can.”
California’s current state excise tax on cigarettes is 87 cents per pack. A total of 45 states have increased taxes on tobacco products in the last decade.