Three groups are collecting petition signatures to put higher tobacco taxes on South Dakota's 2006 general election ballot. If voters approve, the tax on a pack of cigarettes would increase from the current 53 cents to $1.53, according to an Associated Press report.
Also, under the proposal, the tax on other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco would increase from 10 percent of the wholesale price to 35 percent of the wholesale price. If voters approve, the tobacco tax increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2007.
The organizations circulating petitions are South Dakota Healthy Living, the American Cancer Society and the South Dakota Tobacco-Free Kids Network. The groups need 16,728 signatures by next May 2 to get the question on the November 2006 ballot.
The American Cancer Society says about 9,000 signatures already have been gathered.
Chelsea Peterson of South Dakota Healthy Living has collected signatures this week at the Brown County Fair in Aberdeen. As of Thursday, she had about 400 signatures.
"Good. Raise it up to $10," one woman said as she stopped by the fair booth.
The tax increase and resulting higher price would discourage young people from starting to use tobacco, Peterson said. Also, polling shows higher taxes will hinder adults from continuing to use tobacco products, she said.
The legislature has rejected recent attempts to raise tobacco taxes, saying there's no need for any tax increases. South Dakota Healthy Living says the tobacco tax increase would help the state by providing $30 million to the general fund, $5 million a year to the state Health Department's tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and provide money to health care, education and property tax reduction fund.
Signatures also were collected last week at the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls. Many signed because they had just heard of television anchor Peter Jennings' death from lung cancer, Peterson said.