Health group proposes another $1 cigarette tax hike

Smoking in a car. by Wout de Jong

Smoking in car by Wout de Jong

By Sam Smith

Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative is proposing another dollar-per-pack increase to the state’s current $2 dollar cigarette tax. The cigarette tax has been raised three times in the last 15 years and has coincided with a 32% drop in cigarette smoking during that time, which is double the national average.

A Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids study estimates that the proposed tax increase is expected to raise roughly $100 million annually in state revenue. The campaign also estimates the increase will lead to a 11% decrease in youth smoking, prevent roughly 25,000 kids from becoming addicted and would save 14,000 Maryland lives from premature, smoking related deaths.

“We want to continue to reduce teen smoking,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative. “Every 10% increase in price equals a six to seven percent drop in teen tobacco use.”

Ways & Means chair uncertain

Del. Sheila Hixson, chair of the House Ways and Means committee, said it is too early to tell if the proposal will get serious consideration when the next legislative session begins in January.

“I don’t know how the feeling is,” Hixson said. “I don’t know just what we are going to do with that.”

Maryland’s current two dollar per pack rate ranks as the 11th highest cigarette tax in the country. If the General Assembly and governor approve the increase, Maryland’s tax would rank sixth in the nation.

Another hike for other tobacco products

The proposal would also raise taxes on other tobacco products (OTP) like non-premium cigars and chewing tobacco to 95% of the retail value.

The tax on non-cigarette tobacco products was raised in July. The tax rate for non-premium cigars like cigarettes, and Black & Milds increased from 15% to 70% of the wholesale value. Although the tax rate for smokeless tobacco is is less than for little cigars, at 30%, DeMarco said they would like to see smokeless tobacco taxed at the same rate.

“Public health experts say that in order to keep kids from going to OTP when you raise cigarette taxes, it is important to make the OTP tax equivalent.,” DeMarco said. “We had hoped to get smokeless to that level but 30% was a good start. When we get the cigarette tax to $3 per pack the equivalent for OTP will be 95% of wholesale and that will be our goal.”

The campaign also estimates that tobacco use causes over $467 million in state Medicaid spending each year, while causing $1.96 billion in overall health spending in Maryland. The proposed increase is predicted to have a long term savings of roughly $847 million in combined smoking related health care costs.

“In 2007, the money that was raised help to fund a major health care expansion program for over a 100,000 people in Maryland,” DeMarco said. “It was really successful and we want to replicate that success of 2007.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Eric Naumburg, M.D.

    What will this accomplish? Mr. Demarco is very misleading when he quotes a healthcare expansion of 100,000; I assume he’s referring to the ‘primary adult care’ program which is far from comprehensive healthcare; it’s really a demeaning poverty program, just ask the people at Maryland Access Healthcare who struggle to find providers for these people. According to the census bureau, there are more people in Maryland without health insurance now (802,000 or 13.8% of the population) than there were in 2007; when the last healthcare expansion passed the legislature. While an increase in the tobacco tax may discourage smoking, obviously a good thing, it is not an efficient or wise way to reform our healthcare system. These kind of small steps don’t work; they’re ineffective.

  2. muslimmustgo

    Well just buy them from another state who doest’nt punish those that smoke,thats all this is about! The totalitarian “health advocates” dont ever mention the chemtrails sprayed in the skies daily which is far worse than tobacco and is causing an epidemic of upper respriratory illnessess,no they just bully the average citizen,they dont have the guts to go up against the govts weather modification program!

  3. Dale McNamee

    Moronic, neurotic, authoritarian, so-called “health” groups like Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative & A Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids don’t realize that these tax increases hit the poor particularily hard and that those who choose to smoke will continue to do so…

    Hey, ” health nuts ” ! If everyone stops smoking, what’s going to happen to all the tax revenue ? You actually count on people smoking for your dreams & funding ! HYPOCRITES !!!

    The same goes for the State ! HYPOCRITES !!!

    As for medical costs…What are the actual costs that are actually caused by smoking ? What about diseases brought on by aging ? What about those brought on by drug usage & addiction ? Injuries from accidents of all sorts ? Etc ? Can you ” big brains ” actually ferret out that information ?

    I’ve had enough of projected costs and estimates… What about smokers dying sooner than non-smokers ? What about those “savings” ?

    Why not heavily tax X Boxes, Wii’s, PS3 game consoles, big screen TV’s, ? They help people become obese and that drives up medical costs ?

    BTW, I never smoked a day in my life.

    • liberti

      Great comment. Thanks for posting.

  4. Chris

    Up it another $1 or $2, sounds good to me.

  5. AgainstMDTaxes

    And this will just be music in the ears of O’Malley. More money going to Baltimore and east of Baltimore.
    West of Baltimore never ever gets anything from his Tax-addiction.
    He can kiss my “You-know-what”.

  6. Bob Higginbotham

    Isn’t it about time DeMarco and his ignominious band of busybodies to find another interest. I don’t smoke but I think those that do have been crucified enough by these self promoted nut cases that think they know better than all others.

  7. Drack

    They should make the tax $5, or better yet, just ban smoking in more public locations like parks, bust stops, etc…

    • liberti

      Two indoctrinated brainwashed PROGs above.


    I live in Cumberland,Md witch is only a ride across the bridge to Wv. the percentage is in fact wrong , i happen to know a couple store owners in Wv. they love us there , we have made them quit wealthy . The sale of smokes there is off the charts, MD WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO KID

  9. Kerry

    More people will just go to VA to get them, this doesn’t stop people and the percentage is off because people aren’t buying them in Maryland. How about you people worry about underage drinking too, I don’t see a tax on alcohol go up. I don’t smoke but I think it is only fair if you are going to raise the tax on my vise you should on all. Teens drink and drive and kill other people or themselves and you think that is fine.

  10. abby_adams

    With every increase smokers find more ways around the increase.

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