Cig tax snuffed; renewal advances

by Walter Pierce

Louisiana smokers can breathe easy.

Louisiana smokers can breathe easy: A state lawmaker has dropped his bid - for now - to hike the state tax on cigarettes by 70 cents per pack, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, persuaded the House Ways & Means Committee to defer his proposed tax increase rather than kill it, meaning Ritchie could bring the measure back up later in the session. The committee voted 10-5 to renew a current 4-cent tax on smokes despite a vow by Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto the renewal if it makes it to his desk. The renewal now goes to the full House for debate.

Louisiana has some of the cheapest cigarettes in the United States, levying just 36 cents per pack. The 4-cent portion of those taxes is set to expire June 30, 2012. Public health advocates argued - to the deaf ears of no-new-taxes-under-any-circumstances Republicans on the committee - that a higher costs for cigarettes dissuades adolescents from picking up the habit in the first place, citing reports by the U.S. Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine.