Health-care group says 111 Md. legislative candidates support a higher tobacco tax

A health-care advocacy group continued a push to raise Maryland’s cigarette tax to $3 a pack next year by touting a list Wednesday of 111 legislative candidates on the fall ballot who support the idea.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said the numbers suggest that a majority of members in the both the House and Senate will likely be on board when lawmakers return in January.

A tax rate of $3 a pack would be among the highest in the nation. Maryland last increased its tobacco tax in 2007, when lawmakers voted to double it to $2 a pack.

At a news conference in Baltimore, DeMarco’s group also unveiled the sponsors of next year’s legislation: Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) and Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery).

Advocates for another increase say it would reduce smoking, particularly among youths, and to generate additional revenue to fund public health programs.

Legislative analysts projected a similar bill introduced this year would have yielded more than $100 million annually, even with a drop-off in smoking because of the higher tax.

Opponents of raising the tax have argued that it hurts working-class families that are already struggling to make ends meet.

“The tobacco companies are going to fight really hard, and we’re going to have a lot of work to do, but I feel like we’re in a good position,” DeMarco said.

The list of endorsers promoted by DeMarco’s group includes 29 Senate candidates and 82 House contenders.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.

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