Arizona proposal would hike tobacco tax to fund college scholarships

Arizona proposal would hike tobacco tax to fund college scholarships
© iStock

An Arizona state lawmaker has proposed a resolution to hike the tax consumers pay on cigarettes and similar tobacco products in order to fund college scholarships in the state.

Arizona state Sen. Heather Carter (R) on Wednesday introduced the proposal that would increase the current $2-a-pack on cigarettes by an additional $1.50, tucson.com reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

The proposal would also levy a take on vaping products for the first time, a spike that is estimated to be 73 percent of the wholesale price.

The tax would raise an extra $85 million a year, money that could be used for dedicated scholarships at the three state universities, according to Carter.

“What I’m trying to do is put two ideas that have merit together,” she said.

The proposal sets asides funds for the state’s Board of Regents to award scholarships to residents who received A or B grades in each academic course required for graduation, the outlet noted.

Critics, however, question if taxing smokers for educational scholarships is fair so Carter introduced a separate bill that would use existing tax revenue to fund scholarships for the state’s top students.

In order for her proposal to become law, the Arizona Legislature would have to agree to place the measure on the 2020 ballot, the outlet reported.

Voters would have final approval over raising tobacco taxes in a state where 85 percent of Arizonans do not smoke, said Brian Hummell, a lobbyist for the Cancer Society. 

Hummel told tucson.com that higher taxes are a key component in helping smokers quit the habit, as well as preventing people from starting to in the first place.

The higher tax would also prevent nearly 27,000 teenagers who turn 18 from starting to smoke, he said.

“So we’re basically pricing these people out of the market,” Hummell said.

According to the FDA, Tobacco use among minors has increased by 38 percent among high school students in the last year. Nearly 5 million middle and high school reported in 2018 that they used a tobacco product in the last 30 days.

The increase is largely due to e-cigarette use and vaping products, which has triggered the federal agency to consider removing the entire category of products from store shelves if companies don’t stop marketing such products to youth.