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HONOLULU -- A move to hike Hawaii's tobacco tax by 70 percent is making its way to the Senate floor after clearing committee on Friday.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted 13 to 1 to move Senate Bill 2422 to the full Senate for a vote. According to the Hawaii State Legislature website, there is no companion bill in the House.
Senate Bill 2422 would raise the excise tax to a uniform 70 percent of the wholesale price of all tobacco products. This amounts to $3.20 for each pack of cigarettes, according to the Associated Press.
The measure would also ensure that little cigars, which are often flavored, are taxed at the same rate as the cigarettes they resemble, said State Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The bill would also raise the cost of roll-your-own tobacco, the report noted.
The proposed legislation comes as some state lawmakers are looking to close a loophole in the state's tobacco tax law that makes smokeless tobacco products and little cigars cost-friendlier alternatives to cigarettes.
The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii supports the measure, pointing out that it would have the most impact on new tobacco users.
"Adolescents and young adults are two to three times more sensitive to tobacco price changes than adults -- when prices increase, less youth will begin to start using smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products and more will reduce their consumption," the coalition's executive director, Deborah Zysman, said in testimony to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.