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  • 30.06.2014 Alexandria Tobacco Users Are Unhappy With New Law

    There is a certain irony to it, some have said.Smokers in Alexandria will have to leave local discount cigarettes stores to light up the products they just bought there.At least 25 feet from the stores to be exact, starting Jan. 1 after the Alexandria City Council passed an ordinance Oct. 4 banning smoking cigarettes in businesses previously exempt from state and local smoking cigarettes bans, including bars and buy cigarettes stores.And some tobacco users are not happy."They think the City Council way overstepped their boundaries," said Vonne Neal, owner of Alexandria's Smoke Shop." With...

  • 09.11.2012 Southern Board Bans Tobacco

    All of Southern University’s campuses will ban cigarettes store starting in January, the Southern Board of Supervisors decided.The move makes Southern the first college system in Louisiana to ban all cigarettes products. Nicholls State University became the first public college in Louisiana to become tobacco free at the beginning of this calendar year.Southern University System President Ronald Mason Jr. said the new policy is about promoting healthy lifestyles and setting a quality standard for all of higher education.“We’re going to look at it as the beginning of a cultural...

  • 18.10.2012 New Jersey Considers New Taxes On Non-cigarette Tobacco Products

    Little cigars, which are taking increasing space on area tobacco-shop shelves, are shaped and smoked just like cigarettes. But because New Jersey taxes them differently, they cost nearly one-third the price.Over the past several years, increased state and federal taxes have helped turn some smokers on to less-taxed cigarettes store products, local shop owners and anti-smoking cigarettes groups say.New Jersey has a $2.70 tax per cigarette pack, and the federal government has a $1.01 excise tax it enacted two years ago.That sixth-highest cigarette tax in the country may entice more smokers to...

  • 10.09.2012 Free Patches For Smokers

    Quitting smoking cigarettes just got a little easier. For a limited time, the California Smokers' Helpline is sending callers from Nevada County free nicotine patches. Eligible cigarettes store users who call 1-800-NO-BUTTS and enroll in the free telephone-based cessation program will receive a free two-week starter kit of patches, while supplies last.The patches are an FDA-approved treatment proven to help smokers kick the habit. They release nicotine into the bloodstream through the skin, reducing withdrawal symptoms and slowly weaning smokers off nicotine. Nevada County was one of 34...

  • 09.09.2012 Films Subsidized By State Promote Smoking

    California taxpayers subsidize major motion pictures that depict smoking cigarettes, which promotes the unhealthy habit and undermines efforts to keep young people from lighting up, according to UCSF researchers.In a report published Tuesday in PLoS Medicine, the researchers say the state and other governments may be violating their own health policies and goals when they subsidize or offer tax credits to makers of movies that directly or indirectly promote smoking cigarettes."We have a situation where governments today are now spending taxpayer money to sell discount cigarette online to...

More Smokers Avoiding Taxes

Revenue from Kentucky's cigarette tax is in free-fall, but more Kentuckians kicking the unhealthy habit isn't the only reason for the decline. State officials say more and more people are turning to cheaper alternatives — little cigars and roll-your-own online cigarettes — that aren't covered by the state's 60-cent-a-pack tax.

The little cigars look much like cheap cigarettes but are wrapped in brown paper. They cost about $1.25 a pack, compared to about $3.25 for the cheapest pack of cigarettes.

The move to small cigars and roll-your-own cigarettes online is a national trend. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that states have lost $5 billion a year because people are using alternatives that have no state retail cigarette tax.

In Kentucky, state budget officials are predicting a 17.2 percent decline in revenue from the cigarette tax this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Last fiscal year, the state collected $262.4 million from cigarette taxes, down nearly 6 percent from 2010.

It's difficult to say how much of the decline is related directly to cheaper alternatives, but revenue officials say the loss from self-rolled discount cigarette online and small cigars is possibly in the millions of dollars.

When the legislature agreed to double the cigarette tax in 2009, the move was applauded by health advocates as a way to encourage more people to quit. It also bolstered the state's cash-strapped budget.

At first, cigarette tax revenue increased. But in June 2010, revenue from the tax began to dip.

At the same time, the state Department of Revenue, which collects tobacco-related taxes, saw retailers devote more shelf space to pipe cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco, said Richard Dobson, director of sales and excise taxes for the revenue department.

"We started looking at inventories," Dobson said. "The amount of product that is used for roll-your-own is increasing."

The department also observed more large, roll-your-own machines in cigarettes store shops and smoking cigarettes stores. Dobson said the state estimates there are 20 or 30 commercial-size roll-your-own cigarette machines in the state.

People can buy pipe tobacco, which is taxed even less than roll-your-own tobacco, and put it into a machine at a retailer. The end result is a pack of buy cigarettes for a fraction of the cost of prepackaged cigarettes, said Greg Harkenrider, deputy director in the Office of the State Budget Director.

Several states have begun putting pressure on the makers of small cigars and roll-your-own cigarette machines.

Arkansas became the first state to outlaw the machines in April. And there are several pending lawsuits regarding roll-your-own cigarettes.

The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversees federal taxes on tobacco and alcohol, recently ruled that retail establishments with roll-your-own machines must pay the same federal manufacturing tax as cigarette manufacturers. That ruling is being challenged in the courts, Dobson said.

If the ruling is upheld, retailers also would pay into an escrow account that is part of the national tobacco settlement between the states and cigarette manufacturers.

Those who use roll-your-own machines have an unfair commercial advantage over cigarette manufacturers, said Ken Garcia, a spokesman for Phillip Morris USA, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of cigarettes.

"We believe these products should be taxed the same as packaged cigarettes," he said.

Giving people an incentive to switch to lower-cost tobacco has no public policy benefit, he said.

Dale Ferguson, who owns Fayette Cigar Store in downtown Lexington, said he wasn't convinced that roll-your-own buy cigarette online and small cigars are causing declining revenue.

Before Kentucky raised its cigarette tax, it had one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the Midwest. Stores on Kentucky's borders were selling a lot of cigarettes to people from other states.

It's doubtful those stores are selling as many cigarettes, Ferguson said, which could account for some of the decrease.

"I'm not sure if I agree with their conclusions," he said.

Regardless, financially struggling states probably will take a fresh look soon at revamping their cigarette taxes, said Sujit CanagaRetna, senior fiscal analyst for the Council on State Governments.

Since 2001, 47 states have raised cigarette taxes a combined 105 times. Such "sin taxes" are the easiest type to pass, CanagaRetna said.

"I think by early next year when state legislatures go into session, you'll see more states look at this issue," he said.

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