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Oklahoma House committee approves increase to cigarette tax

OKLAHOMA CITY – A higher tax on cigarettes has moved past its first hurdle.

On Monday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee passed a bill that would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes.

The legislation would increase the tax by $1.50 per pack. The money would then provide funding for health care in the state.

It’s a part of Gov. Fallin’s plan to close a nearly $1 billion shortfall.

During her ‘State of the State’ address, Fallin asked lawmakers to raise the cigarette tax, adding that smoking claims the lives of Oklahomans and costs the state $1.62 billion in healthcare related expenses.

The bill will now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

The committee debated the bill for half an hour before passing the legislation in a 17- 10 vote.

“We applaud the House Appropriations and Budget Committee for passing HB 1841. Raising the cigarette tax is essential if we have any hope of saving health care in Oklahoma and is a reasonable solution to help balance the state budget. The cigarette tax will lower teen smoking rates, prevent mental health services from being slashed and help keep health care services in many communities. The Oklahoma Hospital Association strongly urges lawmakers to put the health of people first and approve the cigarette tax this session,” said Craig Jones, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association.