CHICAGO -- Lawmakers in 11 states got antsy with their calculators and made moves in March to increase taxes on cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products (OTP), demonstrating mounting pressure on local legislatures to balance budgets and a growing movement to further regulate the category in general, according to the tobacco-retail trade group NATO.
Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont all advanced legislation tied to increasing excise taxes. Five of those states and four additional states also moved ahead on other tobacco-related proposals, according to the Lakeville, Minn.-based association.
Where are the biggest threats? Hawaii and New Jersey are floating tobacco-tax increases for undetermined amounts, leaving retailers in limbo. In Georgia, Iowa and Kansas, House bills are in the works that could raise cigarette taxes by $1.50 per pack, while House lawmakers in Connecticut and Massachusetts are studying bills that would increase cigarette taxes by $1 per pack.
The big news for retailers in Mississippi, Oregon and Utah is that their lawmakers let separate bills die that would have raised tobacco taxes by varying amounts.
Taxation and regulatory momentum appears to be gaining year over year, said Brian Carr, executive deputy director of NATO, in a recent column for CSP Daily News.
“With continued regulation on the horizon at each level of government, from local city councils to state legislatures, it is crucial that retailers proactively establish a relationship with their elected officials,” Carr said. “It is important to undertake this endeavor now so that when the time comes to fight back against legislation that could severely affect their business, retailers are not starting from square one, but rather from a point of familiarity with their elected officials.”
Here is a state-by-state breakdown of tobacco-related actions taken during the past month ...