CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Tobacco users may be asked to pay more to fund health programs in the Mountain State. A proposal to add to West Virginia’s tobacco tax is again being taken up at the State House.
Del. Don Perdue (D-Wayne, 19) has introduced a bill that would raise the state tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1, taking it to $1.55 total or equal to the national average. On all other tobacco products, an excise tax equal to 50 percent of the wholesale price would be imposed.
Perdue said the state needs the estimated more than $90 million such a tax increase could generate every year.
“I think the interest is very high and getting higher,” he said of the potential for passage of the bill which has been proposed several times in recent years. “Whether there’s enough there (for passage) this year, in 2014, that remains to be seen.”
As proposed, for ten years, the first $90 million generated from the increase would be designated for the Bureau for Medical Services with $6 million going into tobacco control annually and $1 million per year for five years going to the West Virginia University School of Public Health.
Any additional money beyond that would be allocated as follows: 30 percent for oral health improvement programming, 30 percent for substance abuse prevention and treatment programming, 24 percent for in-home elderly care services and 16 percent for early childhood development programming.
“We just saw it exacerbated by this water crisis,” said Perdue on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “We need the money to do the things that have to be done for our population.”
The House Health and Human Resources Committee, which Perdue leads, was scheduled to take up HB 4191 during a Wednesday afternoon meeting at the State Capitol.
Perdue has also proposed a separate bill to raise the state tax on alcohol.