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FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A large majority of Kentuckians -- 69 percent -- favor raising the state's cigarette tax as much as $1 a pack, on top of the current 30-cent per-pack tax, if some of the funds generated went to smoking cessation programs and health care improvements, according to a poll released by a group of health advocates, and cited by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
In addition, a similar majority said they would favor the 70-cent excise tax increase proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear. The state Senate last year killed a 25-cent cigarette tax increase approved by the House, according to the report.
"Although this seems to be a controversial issue for some legislators, there's no controversy in the minds of the voters," Dr. Michael Bousamra, a Louisville lung surgeon told the paper during a conference by KentuckyAction, a coalition of health groups.
"Raising the cigarette tax will be a huge help for the health of Kentucky," he said, adding it would discourage smoking, particularly among youths. "It's time for Kentucky to do what's right."
The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, D.C., involved a random phone survey of 500 registered likely voters, from Dec. 15 to 16, the report stated. The poll had a margin or error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.
Meanwhile, Glen Bolger, a partner and co-founder of KentuckyAction, said it was a "painless" way for the state government to cut the state budget shortfall.
Several retail groups oppose the increase and argued it would hurt businesses, particularly those along state borders. Ted Mason, of the Kentucky Association of Convenience Stores and the Kentucky Grocers' Association, told the paper the associations also oppose a cigarette tax increase because of the additional business cigarette sales generate in items such as gasoline, groceries and alcohol.