Iowa cigarette tax hike proposed - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa cigarette tax hike proposed

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The bank accounts of some Iowans could soon be taking a hit with one proposed tax increase. A huge hike in cigarette taxes is one proposed solution to Iowa's budget issues.

During a state public budget hearing this week, one group suggested a tax hike on cigarettes that would more than double the current rate.

"They are getting awfully high and a lot of people can't afford it," said Sheila Bagg, a smoker and employee at the National Cigar Store in Waterloo.

The average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $5.50, plus the Iowa state tax of $1.36. If the state approved the proposed $1.50 increase, a pack of cigarettes would cost more than $8.

It's the hefty price hike that has organizations like the American Cancer Society lobbying for the increase.

"We know it is the most effective way to keep kids from starting to smoke and help current smokers quit," said Danielle Oswald-Thole with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Inc.

The proposal includes using the money to off-set the state's billions in health care costs.

"Tobacco costs our state over $1.2 billion in annual health care costs. That ranges from cancer-related diseases to lung diseases to production issues in the workforce," said Oswald-Thole.

It's been 11 years since Iowa raised the cigarette tax, but companies are constantly raising the price.

That is why long-time owner of the National Cigar Store, John Eveland, says it won't really make a difference to most of his customers.

"People roll with the punches. They know it is going to happen. The state makes a lot of money off the cigarette business and the liquor; all the sin products," said Eveland.

Eveland says he doesn't expect to see customers quit smoking if the tax is increased, but rather switch to rolling their own cigarettes, which is a fraction of the cost.

The proposal comes with the estimate of a $106 million increase in revenue for the state.

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