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Officials Resist Push For Tobacco Tax Increase

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Aired 4/19/09

As lawmakers and the governor continue to hash out details on a healthcare reform package, some groups are pushing them to include something new: A tobacco tax increase. From Sacramento, Marianne Russ reports.

The American Lung Association of California is one of the groups promoting a tobacco tax hike.

Paul Knepprath is with the organization. He says an increase of $1.50 a pack would generate nearly one and a half billion dollars in its first year. 

Knepprath : It will prevent teens from starting to smoke -- which will have an impact on healthcare costs in the future, and it's going to provide a significant chunk of funding for healthcare.

Right now the tax on a pack of cigarettes is 87 cents. Critics of using a tobacco tax increase for healthcare include Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

Perata : You're betting against yourself. You're hoping people start smoking and then die and then other people start smoking in order to be able to have a revenue stream. I just think it's -- you know, we want to get away from that.

For his part, the Assembly Republican Leader said he's not a fan of raising any taxes.

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