Topeka — A proposed 50-cent-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax may prove even more difficult now.
State health policy officials are recommending a cigarette tax that would grow annually with the inflation rate.
Tracy Russell, Kansas Health Policy Authority manager of government affairs, said the proposal was crafted this way for two reasons.
First, as the tax increased it would continue to serve as a deterrent. It also would continue to provide enough to pay for services whose costs would also increase, Russell said.
"We asked ourselves, how do we keep the tax meaningful as a deterrent," she said.
Tobacco causes 4,000 deaths and $930 million in health care costs each year in Kansas.
Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, supports the KHPA package, but said the inflation increase "makes it more difficult and more complicated."
A cigarette tax bill was introduced in the House, and is expected to be considered soon. The state tax on cigarettes is now 79 cents per pack; the proposed increase would make it $1.29 per pack.
Marcia Nielsen, executive director of the KHPA, met with senators Wednesday afternoon. She defended increasing the cigarette tax as a way to pay for expansion of health coverage and offset the costs of smoking. Not all lawmakers bought her argument.
"This bothers me. Where do we stop?" asked Sen. Ralph Ostemeyer, R-Grinnell.
Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, said the increase would cause smokers to buy less expensive cigarettes in neighboring states or on the Internet.
Nielsen said studies have shown that state cigarette tax increases cause that to happen in the short-term, but that many smokers eventually return to buying cigarettes close to home out of convenience.