Montana Takes on Little Cigars'

Sales surge followed cigarette tax hike

HELENA, Mont. -- The Montana Department of Revenue is considering new rules to regulate so-called "little cigars," which critics say are taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes, said the Associated Press.

The proposed changes would apply cigarette taxes to any product that meets two or more of eight criteria, including being sold in packs of 20 or 25 or cartons of 10 packs, having the same size and shape as regular cigarettes or having a filter.

Health group representatives on Tuesday criticized the little cigars, which they noted [image-nocss] are sold in flavors such as cherry or mint chocolate and have saccharin in the filters to sweeten the taste. Aside from being wrapped in brown paper instead of white, they look a lot like cigarettes.

Some little cigar packages include the standard surgeon general's warning about the dangers of smoking, but health advocates said others do not.

Health groups say a surge in sales of such little cigars followed substantial increases in cigarette taxes in Montana. In 2003, the state cigarette tax was 18 cents per pack. That was increased to 70 cents that year by the state legislature, and a year later, voters approved a $1 increase to push the tax to $1.70 per pack starting in 2005.

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