Marylanders pay an estimated $1 billion in smoked-related health-care costs yearly, according to the Maryland Cancer Consortium. Yet all the state earned in cigarette taxes last year was $61.1 million -- $10 million less than 10 years ago.
As the incidence of lung cancer climbs, the tobacco industry continues to successfully lobby in the State House and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein takes a tepid stance on increasing cigarette taxes. Mr. Goldstein's office argues that increasing the cigarette taxes would encourage bootlegging from neighboring states like Virginia that have lower cigarette taxes.
That misses the point. Canada increased the price of a pack of cigarettes to $4.78 (U.S. dollars) to decrease the risk of lung cancer. Even with a burgeoning black market, the number of Canadian smokers is decreasing by nearly 4 percent a year. Merely raising Maryland's tobacco taxes by 10 percent would decrease the number of its adult smokers in the state by 4 percent and reduce the number of teen smokers by 12 percent, according to some experts.