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KS Gov. Sam Brownback proposes increasing cigarette tax - KOAM TV 7

KS Gov. Sam Brownback proposes increasing cigarette tax

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Would a new tax decrease sales of packs?

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has proposed a steep new cigarette tax.  Brownback's cigarette tax proposal is part of his overall 2015 through 2017 budget proposal.

Brownback's office says this proposed tax would save 15 thousand lives in Kansas by making 26 thousand adult smokers in the state quit.  But Brownback's office also says this proposed tax would bring in 83 and a half million dollars in the first year of its use.

"I think it's absurd," says Tom Gilliam with Joe Smith Company in Pittsburg, a tobacco wholesale company.

Tobacco sellers and smokers themselves are getting fired up about the idea from Governor Brownback to put a one dollar 50 cent tax on every cigarette pack.  It would be an addition to the state's current tax of 79 cents a pack.

"I can't afford that.  I'm already raising four children," says Stacey Thompson, a smoker.  "I don't drink or do anything like that.  This is my one vice.  This is my calming effect."

32-year-old Thompson has been a smoker for half her life.  She's never tried to kick the habit, nor wants to.

"We're the worst state, as far as taxes go," says Thompson.

And what are those tax rates?

"The State of Missouri is a dollar 70 a carton.  Kansas is seven 90," says Gilliam.  The non-tribal tax rate in Oklahoma is $10.50 a carton, and the tribal tax rate can be as low as five dollars a carton.  

So what's keeping smokers in Southeast Kansas from buying their cigarettes in Southwest Missouri?  Nothing, according to Gilliam.

"After the last tax increase in Kansas, we saw, approximately, a 15 percent drop in business in the State of Kansas.  We also saw that gain, proportionately, in the State of Missouri," says Gilliam.

"I don't want to say I'd vote for or against it," says Kansas State Representative Chuck Smith.  "But my dad owned a liquor store.  Something like this would hurt his business, and I don't want to hurt the local liquor store people business," says Smith.

Supporters of this proposal say when all the smoke clears, it's still just the right thing to do.

The American Heart Association and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network also supports this idea.  This proposal would be voted on by the Kansas State Senate and House of Representatives.

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