Frankfort Rally Asks Lawmakers To Raise The Cigarette Tax

By Tony Hyatt

(FRANKFORT Thursday February 13th, 2003 4:00pm) For a second day, hundreds rallied at the State Capitol. This time they were not asking lawmakers to spare the budget cutting knife. Instead, the group wanted a tax increase. Specifically on cigarettes.

"Youth smoking is a problem," said Catherine Lukin, a junior at Louisville's Assumption High School. "Increasing the excise tax is a way to help prevent youth smoking."

Lukin was one of more than 800 people who rallied in the Rotunda as part of the "Caravan to the Capitol" sponsored by the Kentucky Health Investment for Kids. The group wants lawmaker to raise the excise tax 75 on a pack of cigarettes.

But they are asking at a time when the Legislature is holding the line on spending and looking at a budget that calls for no major tax increases.

And when asked, many of the students said they are confident they can win lawmakers over.

"I'm not worried," Jeff McMurray, a junior at St X told WAVE 3 News. "We have the facts and look at other states that have raised the excise tax. Youth smoking has gone down. In Michigan it went down 20 per cent."

"There is just not a consensus,"says Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville. Right now, the ones who are opposed to a cigarette tax increase are winning and so for this session, there will be no cigarette tax increase."

Various bills have been sponsored in the 2003 that would increase the cigarette tax from 25 to 75 cents. Governor Paul Patton has advocated a 37 cent increase to bring the tax to 40 cents. the Governor indicated such an increase could raise more than $167 million a year.

But for many of the young people who rallied on Thursday, its not a question of raising money

"It is about the Legislature doing the right thing to protect our generation, " said Katherine Klem. The Assumption High School Student is the Youth Advocate of the Year and has been outspoken on the cigarette tax.

"The excise tax is a life or death question, we have to raise the tax. It's a matter of protecting the public health."