Ohio smokers and tobacco users may end up paying more in sin taxes, if Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal wins approval.
Kasich wants to increase state taxes on cigarettes to $2.25 per pack, up from the current $1.60, and raise taxes on other tobacco products, including cigars and chew, to match what is applied to cigarettes. Currently “other tobacco products” are taxed at 17 percent but that will jump to 69 percent.
For the first time, vaping, or e-cigarettes, would be taxed the same as other tobacco products.
The American Vaping Association issued a statement that said e-cigarettes are less harmful and are used as tools to quit regular cigarettes.
“Balancing the budget on the backs of smokers looking to quit is not just bad tax policy; it is also bad public health policy,” the association said.
Ken Fletcher, spokesman for the Ohio chapter of the American Lung Association, disagreed. Research shows that higher tobacco taxes — particularly when the rate jumps $1 per pack or more — dissuades young people from starting smoking, he said. “We think we should go up to $1 tax increase on the tobacco tax. We should encourage the governor to go higher,” Fletcher said.
He also disputed the notion that vaping is less harmful that regular cigarettes. “There is a lot we don’t know about these yet. Marketing them as a healthier alternative, there isn’t a lot of data to back up that claim.”
Ohio’s tobacco taxes, which started at 2 cents per pack in 1931, have been generating less cash for government coffers in recent years: $808.2 million in fiscal year 2015, down from $855.7 million in 2011. Ohio bumped the cigarette taxes to $1.60 per pack, up from $1.25, in July 2015.
A proposal to tax vaping products based on nicotine content failed to gain traction in 2015.
Just over a decade ago, Ohio voters approved an indoor smoking ban but Ohio’s adult smoking rate — 21.6 percent in 2015 — is well above the national average of 15.1 percent.
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