Group wants to raise tobacco taxes

Higher taxes on cigarettes and non-cigarette forms of tobacco could be on the way if state legislators follow the recommendations made in a new report from the American Lung Association.

The State of Tobacco Control report for 2015 — released by the organization last week — recommends lawmakers in Ohio raise the cigarette tax by $1 per pack to reduce smoking rates, and match the tax on non-cigarette forms of tobacco to the cigarette tax in an effort to reduce the number of people using the products.

“We expect a significant decrease in tobacco use if tobacco taxes were increased,” said Bruce Barcelo, tobacco prevention and cessation manager for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County. “If we were to increase taxes by $1 and just put 12 cents of that to tobacco prevention and cessation, that would go a great way in helping smokers quit and youth not start.”

George Karras, owner of The Market, a retail tobacconist located in Kettering, said creating a uniform tax code for all tobacco products could be the downfall of his business as many of his customers have transitioned to rolling their own cigarettes to reduce the cost out of pocket for tobacco.

“That could possibly be the last nail in the coffin,” Karras said.

The American Lung Association said the state failed in areas of tobacco prevention, tobacco taxes and access to cessation services, but received an ‘A’ for smoke-free air. The smoke-free air grade is attributable in part to smoke-free laws, like those passed in Oakwood last year that made smoking in some public outdoor areas illegal.

A new study by Frank Chaloupka and Jidong Huang at the University of Illinois at Chicago said the state has seen declining smoking rates due to the implementation of the statewide smoke-free law in December 2006 and large tobacco tax increases in early 2009.

According to the American Lung Association, the adult smoking rate in Ohio is 23.4 percent and the high school smoking rate is 15.1 percent.

Karras said those same pieces of legislation resulted in a 90 percent drop in sales of cigarettes at his store on Wilmington Pike. The store owner said when he started in the tobacco business, taxes on cigarettes were 30 cents a pack, and today he pays the state standard of $1.25 a pack.

“You can make the statistics tell whatever story you want, but in the end I think what most people are concerned about are youth and new smokers,” Karras said.

Last year, 18,590 deaths in the state were attributed to smoking and a $9 billion economic cost to the state because of smoking, the American Lung Association said.

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