Voters say yes to raising tobacco taxes

Tax hike on cigarettes to take effect Jan. 1

Posted: Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Beginning Jan. 1, the tax on cigarettes will increase to $1 a pack from 30 cents. Other tobacco products will see an increase to 45 percent from 12 percent, following voters' overwhelming passage of Proposition 2 in Tuesday's municipal elections.

"I think we had a lot of smokers who voted for it. A majority of smokers want to quit. A majority of smokers don't want to smoke at any price," said Matt Felix, director of Juneau's office of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.

Paul Bennett was one of those smokers. He said he smokes three or four cigarettes a week and voted for the tax hike because the extra cost would help him curb the habit.

"I guess it's pretty bad. I'm a smoker, it's not cheap," he said.

The unofficial vote tally was 3,366 to 2,156.

Felix's agency was the impetus for the tax hike. In July, it asked the Juneau Assembly to raise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products to bring the city in line with tobacco taxes elsewhere in the state. The hike is expected to make a particularly acute impact on youth smokers and potential youth smokers, which voter Tom Rutecki said got him behind the tax bump.

"The more you can do to make it expensive for entry level smokers, especially kids, is good," he said.

The tobacco tax hike is estimated to increase city revenue to $1.7 million a year, up from $517,800 in 2008.

Cathy Muse voted for the tax hike, and joked that taxes on other unhealthy items probably could do some good, too.

"I'm really against smoking. They probably should have a tax on Ho Hos, too," she said.

Ex-smoker James Perry voted against it. He took issue with the sin tax approach.

"Just in general, I don't know that sin taxes are the best way to address budget issues. At some point, they're gonna run out of sinners and go after real people," he said.

• Contact Jeremy Hsieh at 523-2258 or e-mail

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