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Senator Introduces Smoking Tax, Again

January 31, 2007 Senator Introduces Smoking Tax, Again

Tennesseans could soon be paying more for a pack of cigarettes. Senator Rosalind Kurita is pushing for a $1 per pack increase on the cigarette tax. She said it could generate close to $400 million in extra money for the state.

This isn't the first time Kurita has talked about a cigarette tax increase. It's always failed in the past, but some believe the idea is gaining momentum this time around.

"Every year I've gotten closer and closer to passing this," Kurita said.

Senator Kurita said an increase would keep kids from smoking, and Tennessee has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country.

"We have such low taxes on cigarettes. Conversely we have the highest number of high school students who use cigarettes than any state in the United States," Kurita said.

New support for the increase could keep the idea afloat on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Jimmy Nafieh seems confident there will be some sort of increase.

"I feel there will be an increase in the cigarette tax, don't know how much, don't know where we're going to put it yet," Naifieh said.

Her tax increase could get more traction in the legislation this time around because of her position. She's now the speaker pro temp, the number two position in the Senate.

Kurita said studies show the more cigarettes cost, the less likely kids are to pick up the habit.

Kurita is also pushing a bill that would ban cigarette companies from passing out free samples to teenagers.

Lawmakers should start debating the bills over the next few weeks.

This legislative session, bills will also be introduced to ban smoking in restaurants.


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