- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 1, 2017

California’s cigarette tax increased by $2 a pack Saturday under new tobacco policies passed by voters during last November’s general election.

Smokers in California will now pay $2.87 in state taxes for a pack of cigarettes, more than tripling the 87-cent tax levied before the new excise took hold April 1.

In implementing the $2 tax hike, California has become home to the ninth highest cigarette tax in the country, the Sacramento Bee reported Saturday. As the nation’s most populous state, however, the increase will undoubtedly have an effect on California’s coffers in addition to the wallets of the Golden State’s millions of regular smokers.

According to a state tax map available at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the three states bordering California now have significantly lower per-pack excise taxes at $1.32, $1.80 and $2 a pack in Oregon, Nevada and Arizona respectively.

About 3.1 million of California’s roughly 39 million residents are cigarette smokers, according to the state’s Public Health Department, and the tax hike is expected to generate upwards of $1.4 billion in its first year alone, Mercury News reported this week.

And only about one-in-nine adults in California are smokers, more than a third of voters voted no on the ballot measure last November in favor of increased taxes on a range of tobacco products, cigarettes included. Proposition 56 was approved nonetheless with 64 percent of the vote, paving the way for Saturday’s tax hike to take effect roughly five months later.

In addition to cigarettes, the latest tax hike also covers various “nicotine delivery devices,” including electronic cigarettes and vape pens, the Victorville [Calif.] Daily Press reported.

Other products including cigars, cigarillos and chewing tobacco will see a separate tax hike of their own this summer under Proposition 46, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Revenue earned by the tax hike will be allocated mostly to Medi-Cal, a state-run healthcare plan partially funded by the federal government, as well as the California’s various anti-smoking campaigns, the Mercury News reported.

Jim Knox, the vice president of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said there’s a strong correlation between increased tobacco taxes and lower smoking rates.

“In every instance, when a state has increased its tobacco tax, there’s been a reduction in smoking. It’s been proven time and time again. It’s incontrovertible,” he told the Bee.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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