State may increase cigarette tax

Shawntaye Hopkins

Nick Fedyk stood with three friends outside of Java City in Helm-Cravens Library yesterday afternoon.

They were all smoking cigarettes.

And they all agreed that a greater price tag on taking a puff would have a minimal impact on smokers.

“Do people quit doing heroin because it’s harder to get?” Fedyk, a Bowling Green senior, said. “No. They find ways to get it.”

Some students on the Hill agree that an increase in Kentucky’s cigarette tax will have little – but some – effect on college smokers.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced on Thursday that he may propose increasing the cigarette tax 20 to 40 cents per pack as part of a tax reform plan. Kentucky’s current cigarette tax is 3 cents, the second lowest cigarette tax. Virginia has the lowest in the country at 2.5 cents per pack.

Political science professor John Parker said tobacco-growing states tend to have lower taxes because it promotes cigarette use and gives farmers a reason to continue growing the crop.

Parker said experts contend that it would take a 75 cents per pack increase to make people stop smoking.

“Certainly, some people keep smoking even if the tax goes up to well over a dollar,” he said. “At some point, certain people drop out.”

Bowling Green junior Lynn Veitschegger said she does not smoke, but is opposed to a cigarette tax increase.

“I think it’s just an easy target for the government to attack,” Veitschegger said.

She said smoking is a personal choice and higher taxes would probably have little effect on that decision.

“We’re such a wealthy nation that 20 cents doesn’t mean much,” Vietschegger said.

Bowling Green junior Robert McBaen agreed that high cigarette taxes impose some people’s morals on smokers.

“It’s a sin tax because we’re in the Bible Belt,” he said.

Nashville sophomore Torlin Torgersen said she started smoking in high school because of peer pressure.

She said only a substantial increase would make her think twice about purchasing her next pack of cigarettes.

“If they raised it quite a bit, I would have to really slow down or quit,” Torgersen said.

Supriya Nagella, a graduate student from India, said students come to Bate Shop, where she works as a cashier, primarily to buy cigarettes.

A tax increase would not make a difference – even an increase of several dollars – for people who are already addicted to nicotine, she said.

Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, said he doesn’t know how much the tax will be, but the higher it is the more of an effect it will have on smokers.

“It could lead to a reduction in the purchase of cigarettes and therefore the usage of cigarettes,” he said.

Cigarettes in Canada cost more than in Kentucky, but Canadians still choose to smoke, said Sen. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green.

He said there are already high health risks.

“I just don’t know how much people will pay,” Guthrie said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]