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N.H. House Approves Higher Tobacco Tax

Concord — Smokers alert: The cost to buy a carton of your favorite cigarettes could be going up.

The House of Representatives endorsed a 20-cent increase in the tobacco tax, the first raise in revenue lawmakers have approved in 2013 to help support the next, two-year state budget. The change would raise the tax to $1.88 per pack up from $1.68 presently, adding $39 million in revenue to the House budget plan.

Supporters note that at $1.88, the state’s tax would still be lower than neighboring states with Maine at $2 per pack the closest. Vermont and Massachusetts have much higher tobacco taxes.

Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, said a secondary, critical benefit of the move is to get teens to stop smoking or not ever start.

“When you smoke as a teen, you have a much harder time quitting than anyone else. It has been shown in a lot of studies, the most effective way to stop teens from starting or get them to stop is to raise the tax,” said Almy who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.

But House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said this change will raise revenue but cause sales to drop 5.4 percent.

“Studies have shown that when customers travel to New Hampshire to purchase tobacco products they also tend to purchase non-tobacco products as well,” Chandler said. “These additional sales will undoubtedly disappear hurting our retailers’ bottom line.”

The 190-167 vote sends the bill to the State Senate for an uncertain fate.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said he’s confident that all 13 GOP senators will oppose any increase in state taxes this year.

In her first proposed budget, Gov. Maggie Hassan built in a 30-cent increase up to $1.98 per pack. Hassan told reporters Wednesday she would continue to lobby legislators for the bigger tax increase to support spending in her budget for mental health, higher education and aid to cities and towns.

As amended, the bill would also raise the tax on smoking products other than cigarettes such as smokeless and pipe tobacco. The tax for these other tobacco goods would go up to 53.7 percent up from the current 48 percent.