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SALEM, Ore. -- Retailers in Oregon may be facing a staggering second hike in cigarette prices as anti-smoking groups are urging lawmakers to back a 75-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax to help the state out of its budget troubles and to discourage people from smoking.
Any such increase would come on top of a 60-cent-per-pack boost approved by voters last September.
Still, members of the Tobacco Free Coalition said Oregonians have shown their support for higher cigarette taxes and that it should be part of any solution to the state's budget woes, the Associated Press reported.
They also said at least part of the money raised by the proposed cigarette tax hike should be used to revive Oregon's anti-smoking programs, which have been shut down because of budget cuts.
Coalition spokeswoman Maura Roche said a 75-cent tax hike would raise $150 million for the state while also discouraging smoking, especially among young people. "Higher prices do encourage people to quit," she said.
Last September, Oregonians voted to boost the state cigarette tax from 68 cents to $1.28 per pack, making Oregon one of 20 states that raised cigarette taxes in 2002 to help balance their budgets.
House Majority Leader Tim Knopp said the House Republicans aren't anxious to consider another cigarette tax hike, although he didn't rule out the possibility. He said smokers have already been asked to pay more than other people to help out the state's budget problems.
However, Kate Brown (D-Portland) said all revenue options, including a cigarette tax hike, are still on the table as lawmakers try to figure out how to balance the budget. "We're not at the level of talking about specific revenue options yet," she said.