Parochial wrangles in the legislature were surmounted earlier this week, clearing the way for a 20-cent-a-pack tax hike for cigarettes, which has made it intact through House-Senate budget negotiations in Annapolis. The health of Marylanders must remain priority No. 1, and it is clear that this is a tax that will promote good health.
A portion of the $90 million raised by the tax would pay for TC broad initiative to educate young people about the dangers of the nicotine habit. In addition, that 20-cent-a-pack increase adds a potent new disincentive. Experience in Canada shows that high taxes discourage young people from buying cigarettes.
Another part of the initiative is directed toward those people who already smoke and contribute to the unacceptably high cancer death rates in Maryland. An estimated 600,000 Maryland citizens suffer from lung diseases, a large share of the cases related to smoking. The state's cancer death rates are the highest in the country, and so are its costs. That is money better spent helping to improve the quality of life for all Marylanders rather than fighting illnesses that could be prevented or avoided. Getting more Marylanders to stop smoking is thus a high priority.