LOUISIANA (KSLA) - As legislators look for ways to compensate for the $1.6 billion budget shortfall Louisiana faces, some are looking at smokers to foot the bill, in part.
State Representative Harold Ritchie has introduced two bills that would raise taxes $1.18 on a pack of cigarettes. The current tax of 36 cents per pack would increase to $1.54 per pack.
"Oh my God, you got to be kidding, they're high enough," said Tobacco House Customer, Marinda Osby.
It's her reaction that retailers, like Sharrie Booker are bracing for.
"Most of them are on limited income," said Booker, she's the manager at Tobacco House on Mansfield Road in Shreveport. She believes the increase unfairly targets her customers who are already struggling.
"It won't affect the rich, they got the money, it'll effect the middle income and the poor," said customer John Savage.
Representative Ritchie believes the tax will have a positive side effect - saying stats show when cigarettes cost more, state health costs are lower because fewer people will smoke.
"They did that in Wisconsin, $4 pack of cigarettes to $8, it's not cutting down people smoking," said customer George Sobotka.
But the good news for opponents of the proposal is the bill could be snuffed out once it reaches Governor Bobby Jindal's desk, who has vowed to veto any tax increase.
Representative Ritchie believes the increased tax can raise about $240 million a year for the state. But he says it's never been about raising money for the state, for him, a smoker himself, he says it's always been about healthcare.
The bill has been pre-filed for the next legislative session, which starts April 13. Representative Ritchie believes the increased tax can raise about $240 million a year for the state.