The 2012 state legislative year continues a trend with a significant majority of state cigarette and tobacco tax increase legislative bills not being enacted by state legislatures, while proposed tobacco restrictions on a local level continued to increase in number.
State Tax Outcomes
This year, twenty-three states considered legislative bills to increase cigarette and/or tobacco product tax rates. In addition, California had a question on the June 5, 2012 statewide election ballot to raise the state cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack with an equivalent increase in the tax on all other tobacco products. In addition, a petition drive is underway in the state of Missouri to place a cigarette tax increase question on the November general election ballot.
With the majority of state legislatures having adjourned for the 2012 year, four states have enacted bills to raise or change cigarette and OTP tax rates. Illinois raised its cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack to a new rate of $1.98 per pack, doubled the OTP rate to 36 percent, changed the tax on moist snuff to $.30 per pounce, and now taxes little cigars as cigarettes.
In Maryland, the tax rate on cigars was increased to 70 percent, except on premium cigars, and the OTP rate was raised to 30 percent. The state of Rhode Island raised its cigarette tax rate by $.04/pack to a new rate of $3.50 per pack, the second highest cigarette tax rate in the country. Also, the Vermont legislature passed a law to tax little cigars as cigarettes.
As of June 25th, the California Secretary of State reported that there were 2,539,904 votes against the statewide ballot question to raise the cigarette and tobacco tax rates while 2,511,744 voters voted in favor of the ballot question. This is a difference of 28,160 votes against the tax increase. The Secretary of State has until July 5, 2012 to certify the actual election results on the ballot question.
This year, twenty-four states have introduced legislation to regulate or restrict commercial roll-your-own machines. To date, twelve states enacted laws that either ban the use of commercial RYO machines, require operators to pay the state cigarette excise tax, allow only certified roll-your-own tobacco products to be used in the machines, or classify an operator as a cigarette manufacturer. These twelve states include Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. Legislative bills to regulate RYO machines remain pending in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
Local Tobacco Issues
This year has seen a significant increase in proposed local tobacco restrictions, principally along the East Coast and West Coast. In response to this dramatic rise in local tobacco ordinances, NATO has responded with a local project to assist retailers in opposing these ordinances.
In Massachusetts, there have been 14 local ordinances introduced that seek to adopt one or more of the following restrictions: (1) ban the sale of single cigars, (2) require cigars to be sold in packages of four or more, (3) prohibit the redemption of tobacco coupons, and/or (4) limit the number of retail stores that are allowed to sell tobacco products. So far, ten of the fourteen localities have not adopted these various restrictions while four others continue to consider these new regulations.
In New York, the village of Haverstraw adopted an ordinance requiring all tobacco product displays to be out of the public’s site and a similar restriction is now being considered by Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Down in Florida, an ordinance has been proposed that would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Miami-Dade County.
On the West Coast, several cities in California have considered or are considering adopting regulations that would require new retail tobacco licensees to be located up to 1,000 feet from youth-populated areas such as a school, park or playground or ban the sale of flavored tobacco products.