Smokes are likely to continue to be comparatively cheap in Louisiana after Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, pulled a bill April 22 that would have bumped the per-pack tax from 36 cents to $1.41. One day later, the House Ways & Means Committee snuffed out a plan by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, to raise it to 68 cents per pack, which seems to end the Legislature's annual discussion of whether to raise taxes on cigarettes.
Louisiana has the third-lowest cigarette sales tax in the country, according to figures compiled by the American Lung Association and the Tax Foundation. Only Virginia at 30 cents, and Missouri at 17 cents, are lower. The highest is New York, which adds $4.35 to each pack sold in the state. Other states also are looking to hike their cigarette taxes, including Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, is proposing a $1-per-pack tax (bringing it to $3.51).
Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted a similar hike ($1.05 per pack) as part of his own state income tax overhaul, but he dropped the notion when his tax plan was rejected. Jindal now says he will veto any new tax on cigarettes that does not come with lowering of other taxes, which is consistent with a previously held position. In 2011, the legislature agreed to renew a 4-cent per pack tax, which Jindal promptly vetoed, calling it a tax increase. — Kevin Allman