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Vincent DeMarco
Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens Health Initiative. File photo Jan. 21, 2014 (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

Candidates hit up for tobacco tax pledge

If you’re running for a seat in the Maryland General Assembly, Vincent DeMarco wants you to pledge to raise the state’s tobacco tax.

DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, said his group is sending 540 letters to candidates of all parties who are running for the House of Delegates and Senate.

“This isn’t an issue where supporting a tobacco tax can hurt you,” DeMarco said. “It’s an issue where not supporting a tobacco tax can hurt you. The people really, really want this.”

DeMarco is seeking a $1 per pack increase in the tax on tobacco in an effort to decrease teen smoking similar to a bill he lobbied for during the 2014 General Assembly session that ended on Monday night.

The bill this year proposed increasing the tobacco tax from $2 to $3 per pack and increasing the tax on other tobacco products from 30 percent of the wholesale price to 95 percent. The legislation would have also required the governor to spend at least $21 million annually on prevention and cessation programs.

DeMarco said the hope is to make the tobacco tax increase “a top issue” in the 2014 election for Republicans and Democrats.

The legislation was sponsored by 19 senators and 57 members of the House of Delegates. Some of those sponsors are leaving the General Assembly but DeMarco said those who remain will be considered supportive of the effort in 2015 for the purposes of his group’s pledge drive.

The push this year was an effort to lay the groundwork for passage of the legislation next year, according to DeMarco.

“The tobacco lobby is powerful,” DeMarco said. “The liquor lobby is powerful but the people are more powerful.”

Maryland Citizens Health Initiative will later feature the signatures in a grassroots campaign DeMarco said was “educational.”

“We do not endorse candidates,” DeMarco said.

Advocates in October released a 15-page report touting the success of the last $1 increase in 2008.

That report said the 2008 tax increase resulted in 15,000 fewer high school smokers and 99,000 fewer adult smokers. The report says those reductions resulted in a savings of $2.4 billion in combined long-term health care costs.

One comment

  1. Well just as everybody said even people in tobacco control said higher taxes would lead to massive bootlegging in cigarettes! Look right in maryland the cigarette gestapo!

    9 indicted for cigarette smuggling

    They’re the tip of the iceberg,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “There is an explosion of cigarette smuggling going on.”

    Comptroller’s Supervisory Agent Mike Madison peered through his binoculars, eyeing the black Toyota Camry as it pulled up to the Woodbridge tobacco shop. A man in a polo shirt got out, laid down a mat in his trunk and went inside. He emerged carrying several grocery bags — 10 to 12 cartons of cigarettes, Madison guessed — and drove away.

    It sounds innocuous. But tobacco smugglers like these, officials say, are responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax revenue to Maryland each year. On Thursday, Prince George’s County prosecutors announced that they had indicted nine people — allegedly responsible for nearly $30,000 in lost tax revenue — on criminal charges of transporting and conspiring to transport unstamped cigarettes.

    Just like during alcohol prohibition:

    Trade In Black-Market Cigarettes: Hot, Dangerous
    Common sense dictates that with price increases, smokers would be deterred from smoking. Instead, the increase in prices has been a boost for illicit tobacco trading. “What happened was that the market size did not shrink, but instead there was a heavy increase in the illicit trade of tobacco.