Bill to raise cigarette tax is snuffed out

Baton Rouge, La.  -  Efforts to raise taxes on cigarettes suffered its first big blow in the legislature.  A bid to raise cigarette taxes by more  $1.05 per pack was stalled in the Louisiana House tax committee, amid legislative resistance to tax increases.

Bogalusa Rep. Harold Ritchie pulled his proposal before a vote Monday, saying he knew he didn't have the support to advance the measure to the House floor. It would have raised cigarette taxes from 36 cents per pack to $1.41. Supporters of the tobacco tax hike say it would reduce smoking and smoking-related illnesses while also generating much-needed money for the state budget.

Opponents say increased taxes don't drop smoking levels. They say the tax increase could harm revenue at convenience stores. Many opponents also disagree philosophically with raising taxes. Gov. Bobby Jindal said he'll veto any tax hike that isn't offset with tax reductions elsewhere.

Louisiana remains one of the cheapest states in the country to smoke at 36 cents a pack

The American Cancer Society says the cost of cigarettes has a direct impact on how many people smoke, especially younger people.  They estimate that 22-percent of high school students are smoking.

Besides the cigarette tax bill that failed, there are still several other cigarette tax bills that have been filed, including one by Representative Austin Badon. Badon's bill would raise the tax to $1.05 a pack, with most of the money going to health care in Louisiana and a small portion paying for the upkeep of the Crescent City Connection. "it would take it to the national average which is 1.41 and so there are number of measures like that but mine is the only one like that would generate money to the crescent city connection.

While state lawmakers debate the issue, President Obama is pushing for a federal cigarette tax hike.