Backers Cite Health and Revenues For New Tobacco Tax

Beginning January 1st, the cost of pack of cigarettes in Anchorage will be 75 cents higher. Last night in a split vote, the Anchorage Assembly approved an increase to the municipal tobacco tax.

Besides raising the cost of cigarettes, the ordinance boosts the excise tax on other tobacco products from 45 to 55 percent of their wholesale value. Cigars, pipe and smokeless tobacco fall within that category. Assembly Chair Dick Traini, who sponsored the legislation, estimates the new revenues from 5-point-2 to 6-point-2 million dollars annually.

Because the municipal tobacco tax is an excise tax, the charter does not require voter approval.

Much of the testimony at the public hearing held at the previous assembly meeting centered on health, the cost to the community of smoking, and the relationship between taxes and reduced tobacco use. Several cited tobacco tax increases and subsequent drops in youth smoking.

While health was not forgotten in the assembly debate, the financial element was more evident. Assembly member Debbie Ossiander noted the 75 cents addition would make Anchorage cigarettes the second most costly in the nation. She proposed reducing the increase to fifty cents.

Assemblyman Pat Flynn agreed.

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