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Arlington Delegate Pledges to Push $1.15 Per-Pack Cigarette Tax Increase

Hope: Money generated from tax hike could help pay escalating Medicaid costs.

Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, said Thursday he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would raise Virginia's cigarette tax to the national average.

Hope attempted to do the same earlier this year, but his bill died in committee. The Arlington delegate would like to see Virginia's per-pack tax -- currently at 30 cents, second only to Missouri as the lowest in the nation -- increased to the national average of $1.45.

Other attempts to raise the tax various amounts in recent years have also failed.

Hope talked about the importance of the increase Thursday at Bon Air Park, where he and other Arlington officials .

"This is of tremendous importance to me, not because I'm on a crusade against smoking, but because it's a public health issue," Hope said.

The delegate said there's a national trend toward promoting smoking cessation, from insurance companies offering incentives to smokers to help them quit to businesses not hiring employees who smoke.

Citing statistics compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Hope said a $1.15 per pack tax hike on cigarettes would prevent nearly 74,000 children from becoming smokers and cause an estimated 45,500 of adult smokers to quit.

"Only 19 percent of (adult) Virginians smoke," Hope said. "Most people wouldn't feel the heat -- feel the tax, in other words."

The increase, including anticipated federal matching Medicaid funds, could generate up to $1.1 billion in revenue, Hope said.

The projected long-term health savings in this state from adult and youth smoking reduction is $1.7 billion, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids data.

The money could be used to help Virginia cover escalating Medicaid costs or satisfy Justice Department requirements to move mentally disabled patients out of institutions and into community settings, Hope said.

Jason Spencer November 17, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Full disclosure: I am a soon-to-be-ex-smoker. My fiancee quit smoking in July, and I've had a lot of trouble holding up my end of the bargain -- but it'll happen :)
Nicholas November 18, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Trying to keep off the cancer sticks but it's a struggle. Higher prices will help.
Victoria K. November 20, 2011 at 02:51 AM
What kills and seriously injures many more folks than does smoking? Are we to expect "graphic" images on cars?
John Strother November 20, 2011 at 11:54 AM
If people stop smoking, then how can this generate this type of funds? Lets raise the price of Beer. It is a health problem. It will generate more money than a tax on cigarettes. How about charging for public parking after 6 PM, this too will generate alot more money for the county.
Jason Spencer November 20, 2011 at 07:23 PM
I'm still fairly new to Virginia politics, but last year South Carolina had this same debate. One of the arguments against raising the cigarette tax to generate revenue is that if it works, and the number of smokers declines, then so does the revenue. It's a point I wouldn't be surprised to hear out of Richmond if and when this matter is discussed in the upcoming legislative session.

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