BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Several lawmakers have filed bills for the upcoming session to increase taxes on cigarettes, vapor products and e-cigarettes. They say increasing those taxes would save billions in health care costs and help the state's fiscal problems.
For Representative Harold Ritchie of Bogalusa, his bill to raise taxes on cigarettes is not the first time
he has made such a proposal.
He authored House Bill 119. It would take the current 36-cent cigarette tax and raise it an additional $1.18,
bringing the state's tax to $1.54. That is said to be current national average per pack.
"As most of you know, I'm a smoker," said Ritchie. "Started when I was a teenager."
Ritchie said he hopes a higher tax would help him quit smoking.
He says the increase would generate $223 million in annual state revenue. Supporters of Ritchie's bill say an increase would also mean fewer smoking related deaths.
According to the Louisiana Campaign for a Tobacco Free Living, in the last 13 years there's been a decrease
in the number of adults lighting up and a decline in youth smoking. They say there's also evidence to show if the state increased its tax on cigarettes, even more would quit. That, they say, would lead to an improvement in overall public health.
For Ritchie, not even smoking related deaths in his family forced him to quit.
"My grandfather died with emphysema at the age of 67. My father died at 53, after his second heart attack," said Ritchie.
Ritchie says his concern is with not passing the habit on to the next generation.
"I got two grandsons. They're not smokers, neither are their parents. Thank goodness. I don't want to see
them pick up a cigarette," said Ritchie.
The Jindal administration has said they would support a tax increase on cigarettes, so long as there's an offsetting
credit such as relieving the burden on higher education. Jindal had proposed raising the cigarette tax to 83 cents a pack, which is the southern average. Under the governor's plan, that would generate $100 million in annual state revenue.