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House snuffs out tobacco tax increases

The House has rejected two bills that would increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

One bill would have raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 44 cents to $1.54.

"Five cigarettes a day doubles your risk for heart disease," said the bill's main sponsor, Re. Alisa Mitskog (D- Wahpeton). "Who should bear those costs for health care? All of us?"

Opponents argued this would hit low income people the hardest, and probably wouldn't lower the rate of smoking.

"As one of the Committee members opined, in 40 years in education, from day one, we have preached the evils of smoking," said Rep. Sebastian Ertelt (R-Lisbon). "After 40 years, we're down to the point where either you don't pay attention, or you want to smoke. And I don't know if the tax will make a difference."

It failed 66-25.

A second bill would have raised taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

"Nobody likes taxes," said that bill's main sponsor, Rep. Jon Nelson (R-Rugby). "This would work to reduce smoking rates and tobacco use. I don't think there's any question about that."

Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) argued assessing “sin taxes” to pay for health care becomes a “slippery slope.”

"You must, if you are consistent, also believe in increasing taxes on sugary beverages, on fast food, on liquor -- anything that causes obesity," Becker said. "All of these things are health costs."

That measure failed 58-33.

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