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Sun Gazette: Del. Hope's Cigarette Bill Meets Expected Demise in House of Delegates Print


Created:  Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For the second year in a row, Del. Patrick Hope's push to nearly quintuple Virginia's excise tax on cigarettes met an early death in the General Assembly session.

A subcommittee of the House Committee on Finance killed Hope's 2012 bill, which would have funneled most of the funds brought in by the tax increase to localities, for use in rebating car-tax bills.

In introducing the legislation, Hope (D-47th) had expressed cautious optimism that it was a way around the general dislike for new taxes among the General Assembly's leadership.

"What has stood in our way in the past has been a firm opposition to any tax increase of any kind," Hope said in a Jan. 17 statement announcing his measure.

The legislation proposed to raise the state excise tax on cigarettes from the existing 30 cents per pack to the national average of $1.45, and increase taxes on other tobacco products.

Of the funds brought in, 8 percent would support state efforts to stop people from starting smoking, and help those who do smoke kick the habit. The remainder of the funds would go for car-tax relief.

"Not only will we be able to provide significant tax relief to working, middle-class families, it will save countless lives and reduce overall health-care costs," Hope said in his statement.

Virginia currently ranks 49th among states, behind only Missouri, in its excise tax on cigarette packs, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. In contrast, smokers in New York pay New York state $4.35 per pack in state taxes, while those purchasing their cigarettes in New York City pay an additional $1.50 in local taxes per pack.

The federal government imposes a tax of just over $1 per pack on all purchases.