The group that successfully lobbied for Maryland’s first tax increase on alcohol in a generation is hoping to build on that success and convince state lawmakers to approve a $1-per-pack tax increase next year on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
It’s a bit of public-health redux for the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, led by the state’s longtime advocate for universal health care, Vincent DeMarco. The group already won a $1-per-pack tax increase in 2007, doubling Maryland’s cigarette tax and lifting its levy on tobacco above the national average.
Now, the group says tobacco use has dropped by nearly a third, or twice the national average, over the last decade in Maryland, and it argues that to continue driving down that rate of consumption, another tax increase will be needed.
Another dollar would lift Maryland’s per-pack tax to $3. That would be nearly twice the national average and 10 times the rate in Virginia, where the state collects 30 cents per pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, which tracks tobacco tax rates. The District collects $2.50 per pack.
On Tuesday, DeMarco’s group was joined by the state’s chapters of the AARP, NAACP, Maryland’s medical society and union organizers to kick off its latest lobbying effort. DeMarco released a list of more than 100 religious congregations, businesses and others who have endorsed the proposal.
Each signed a pledge saying the increased tobacco tax revenue should be used to fund community-based health initiatives, including those that address childhood obesity, long-term care for seniors and improved access to health-care services for Maryland families.
The effort is likely to meet stiff resistance in the General Assembly, including from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who has long criticized tax rates disproportionate to neighboring states.
DeMarco, whose efforts usually take several years, said he is confident that the tax increase will pass — if not next year, then soon.
“With this new dollar-per-pack tobacco tax increase, we will build on this success to save more lives and fund more health-care expansion,” he said.