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Ballston-VirginiaSquare Patch: Arlington Delegate Pledges to Push $1.15 Per-Pack Cigarette Tax Increase Print

Hope: Money generated from tax hike could help pay escalating Medicaid costs.

BY Jason Spencer

Created:  Thursday, November 17, 2011



Arlington County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman and Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, hold signs at the county's Smoke-Free Parks Initiative kick-off Thursday. Credit Jason Spencer.

Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, said Thursday he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would raise Virginia's cigarette tax to the national average.

Hope attempted to do the same earlier this year, but his bill died in committee. The Arlington delegate would like to see Virginia's per-pack tax -- currently at 30 cents, second only to Missouri as the lowest in the nation -- increased to the national average of $1.45.

Other attempts to raise the tax various amounts in recent years have also failed.

Hope talked about the importance of the increase Thursday at Bon Air Park, where he and other Arlington officials kicked off the county's Smoke-Free Parks Initiative.

"This is of tremendous importance to me, not because I'm on a crusade against smoking, but because it's a public health issue," Hope said.

The delegate said there's a national trend toward promoting smoking cessation, from insurance companies offering incentives to smokers to help them quit to businesses not hiring employees who smoke.

Citing statistics compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Hope said a $1.15 per pack tax hike on cigarettes would prevent nearly 74,000 children from becoming smokers and cause an estimated 45,500 of adult smokers to quit.