OMAHA (kptm) - Cigarette prices could be going up again. A new bill proposed in the statehouse is looking to raise the cost of a pack by another 8 cents. However buyers in Douglas county are already paying more because of the occupation tax.
The majority of Nebraska smokers pay 64 cents per pack in cigarette taxes. But state senator Mike Gloor wants to increase it to 72 cents. Buyers say the increases are getting out of hand. Brian VanBeek says, "they should decrease it, they'll sell more that way, more tax money. If you increase it, you lose sales. You decrease it, you gain sales."
Last year the Omaha city council voted in favor of an occupation tax to help pay for the UNMC cancer center. Making smokers in Douglas county pay 3 percent more for their smokes. The newly proposed bill would make those in Douglas county pay over a dollar in taxes per pack. TJ Deveney says, "that's a lot, that's a big raise. I think it's time to quit smoking."
State senator Bob Krist wants to change Omaha's occupation tax so that tobacco and alcohol can't be targeted. Some city council members agree. "It's an unfair tax in terms of how it's being applied. Right now Omaha is carrying the burden for the whole state," Councilman Thompson says.
Senator Krist says the tax increase on a pack of cigarettes could make buyers in Douglas go outside county lines. Fred Frasure says, "it'll push a lot of people out of Douglas county."
"People in my district they'll say well I'll just drive an extra mile to Sarpy county and buy my cigarettes, so that's driving tax money out of Douglas county is what it's doing," Thompson says.
Those in favor of the tax increase say it's a win for the state's budget. They say smokers cost the state more than 500 million dollars a year in health care costs.
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