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Health Advocates: Fifty Cent Tobacco Tax Increase in Kentucky Budget 'Not Enough'

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The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky spent six figures lobbying members of the General Assembly just in the first month of the 2018 session.  Their efforts are bearing some fruit.

The Kentucky House passed a budget bill Thursday that includes a 50 cent hike in the cigarette tax. 

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is pressing lawmakers to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by one dollar.  CEO Ben Chandler sees a 50 cent tax increase as an ineffective compromise.  He thinks 50 cents isn’t enough to make smokers give up the habit.

"If that price increase is too low, and the tobacco companies are able to mask that price increase with coupons, then the consumer won't notice it and you won't get the same health effect."

Chandler says he appreciates a willingness among lawmakers to raise the tax and calls the 50 cent proposal historic.  The largest cigarette tax increase to ever pass in Kentucky was 30 cents.

Chandler is hopeful that once the budget goes to the Senate, that chamber will approve a dollar increase. 

Kentucky has the 8th lowest tobacco tax in the nation.  The current tax on a pack of cigarettes in the bluegrass state is 60 cents.

Opponents say a tax hike would unfairly burden the nearly 48 percent of low-income Kentuckians who smoke.

This story has been updated. 

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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