Doctor proposes cigarette tax hike to solve budget crisis

By Brittany Pieper – email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – As LA State Legislators prepare to slash the budget, healthcare prepares to take a big hit. The Louisiana chapter of The American Academy of Pediatrics think they may have a solution to restore at least part of their budget.

"A small increase in our tobacco tax would go a long way to help funding and getting through the current financial crisis," said Dr. John Vanchiere.

He estimates if the state added $1 tax to each pack of cigarette's sold, it would raise $300-350 million. Right now, Louisiana has the 2nd lowest cigarette tax in the country at $.36 per pack. If they raised it $1, it would still be below the national average of a $1.45.

Vanchiere also thinks the tax has health benefits, "Fewer teenagers would smoke, which would be a really good outcome. It may be that some people are discouraged from smoking because of the cost."

He says fewer smokers would also help balance the budget because medicaid spends millions of dollars a year in healthcare directly related to smoking.

However, many smokers say they would not support a cigarette tax increase.

"It's ridiculous. Ridiculous. It's something that shouldn't be going up. A dollar goes a long way. That dollar I could put in my gas tank," said smoker, Luke Stokes.

Governor Bobby Jindal says he won't support it either. He plans to veto any new taxes.

"There's a slippery slope here. Today people are talking about the hospital taxes. They're talking about the income taxes the oil and gas taxes, the cigarette taxes. Tomorrow it's gonna be a soda tax. The next day after that it's a twinkie tax," said Jindal.

The state faces a $1.6 billion budget deficit.

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