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.