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Kentucky Senate Committee Recommends Upping Cigarette Tax

Natalia Zhigareva/123rf Stock Photo

Members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee are recommending the state’s cigarette tax increase by at least one dollar.

The committee took testimony Wednesday, but did not vote on a specific bill. Still, Markey Cancer Center Director Mark Evers saw progress in the effort to see the cigarette tax go up. 

“I’ve been now director of the Markey Cancer Center for about nine years. We’ve been talking about this for a long time, but I feel the most encouraged today that I have in nine years,” said Evers. 

Evers said Kentucky has the highest smoking and lung cancer rates of any state in the country. He said it’s proven that tobacco cessation policies and raising the cigarette excise tax lead to a downturn in smoking rates.

During discussion in committee, Campbellsville Senator Max Wise asked if proponents would, over time, also seek to tax unhealthy foods. Graham Brown Cancer Center Director Jason Chesney said there are differences between food and cigarettes.

“There’s a big difference between somebody having a Mountain Dew, or even three Mountain Dews in a day and someone smoking a pack of cigarettes in terms of health care costs,” said Chesney. 

Leitchfield Senator Stephen Meredith has filed legislation where much of the additional revenue from a cigarette tax hike would go to support Medicaid reimbursements.

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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