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Vincent DeMarco
Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Primary wins edge anti-smoking group closer to tax increase

111 of 216 candidates that signed pledge won their primary elections.

An anti-smoking group says victories in Maryland’s primary election have improved the odds that an increase in the tobacco tax will become a reality in 2015.

3a SmokingMF07_webVincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, said his organization has made the election of candidates who support the pledge its number one priority in the 2014 election. The group even went so far as to buy radio ads in support of Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden in his primary contest against Julius Henson.

McFadden supports the proposed tax increase and Henson did not. It was the only race in which DeMarco’s organization purchased radio ads.

More than 51 percent of the candidates for House of Delegates and Senate who signed the pledge won their primaries.

“We believe this means that in 2015 there will be a majorities in both the State Senate and the House of Delegates to pass this measure,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco and other activists are seeking passed of a bill increasing the tax on cigarettes 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 also requires the governor to spend at least $21 million annually on prevention and cessation programs.

DeMarco and the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative and Health Care for All Coalition started the election season with a list of 216 candidates, many of whom were incumbents, who signed on to a pledge the increase the state’s tobacco tax by a $1 per pack. Of those, 111 won their initial contest and move on to the general election in November.

Following the June 24 primary, 28 candidates for Senate, including 20 incumbents and four others who are delegates stepping up to run in open seats, won.

On the House side, 82 candidates who signed the pledge won their primaries including 46 incumbents and another 36 who, if they won, would be freshman legislators in 2015.

In order for a bill to pass, it needs 71 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate.