COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- A proposal from Ohio Gov. John Kasich to get the state income tax rate below 5 percent will reportedly include a $1 hike in the cigarette tax.
Opponents of the plan, which hasn't been confirmed by the governor's office, say it would hurt low-income Ohioans most. 49 percent of Ohio smokers have annual household incomes of less than $25,000, according to Beth Wymer at the Ohio Wholesale Marketers Association.
"The poorest Ohioans are going to have a greater tax burden under this proposal even though there's an income tax in it, they're not going to benefit from it," she said.
Wymer said one report she saw found that the lowest income Ohioans would pay about $2 less a year under the plan, but if they smoke at least a pack a day that means they'll be paying at least $365 more.
Ohio's cigarette tax stands at $1.25 per pack, 29th most expensive in the nation. It hasn't been raised since 2005. Wymer says adding a dollar to it would make Ohio's tax the highest among neighboring states. The biggest issues could be seen among retailers in border regions.
"Ohioans go across the river on a regular basis to buy their cigarettes and we're just going to increase that incentive," Wymer said noting that Kentucky's cigarette tax is only 60 cents.
If the proposal passes, Michigan's tax would be a quarter cheaper and Pennsylvania's tax, at $1.60, would suddenly be much cheaper than Ohio's $2.25 tax. Indiana's tax is 99.5 cents and West Virginia's is only 55 cents.
New York's cigarette tax is the nation's highest at $4.35 while Missouri's is the lowest at 17 cents.
Ohio's cigarette tax generated $774 million in fiscal year 2013, according to the Ohio Dept of Taxation. That's up from the $771.8 million in 2012, but down from $915.5 million in 2008.
The American Cancer Society backs the proposal saying that it could lead to 78,000 adult Ohioans deciding to quit smoking and avert 45,000 deaths.
"Most importantly 75,000 kids under the age of 18 would not start or would discontinue using tobacco products," said the American Cancer Society's John Hocter.
He says it's time for Ohio to raise the tax, but also to fund prevention and cessation programs.
"Having essential services for people who are looking to quit who may be impact by this increase in tobacco tax is the most important thing that we can do," said Hocter.
Hocter said he was unaware of any studies that show that people jump across state lines to save money on cigarettes.
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