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    Wash. Mulls Highest Cigarette Tax

    State's per-pack tax would jump 60 cents to just over $1.42.

    OLYMPIA, Wash.

    Washington voters are being asked to boost their cigarette taxes to the highest in the nation, with the bulk of the money going into health coverage for thousands of people who are uninsured.

    Sponsors say it has the added benefit of helping to price cigarettes out of the range of children: The tax increase would boost cigarette prices at many stores to over $5 a pack and drive the price of a can of chewing tobacco to $6, according to the Associated Press.

    But some young adults say an extra 60 cents a pack isn't enough to make a difference to smokers, and opponents of the plan deride it as an unfair tax on a legal substance and a legislative mistake that could led to future problems for the insurance program, the report said.

    Washington already has the fourth highest cigarette tax in the country, at 82.5 cents a pack, trailing only New York, at $1.11, and Alaska and Hawaii, both at $1. With Initiative 773, Washington's per-pack tax would be more just over $1.42.

    A 54.5 percent surtax on cigars, pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco would boost the state tax rate on those products to a national high -- 129.4 percent of the wholesale price, the report said.

    The initiative, scheduled to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, would increase the state's cigarette taxes by 60 cents a pack starting next year. Fifteen states have raised tobacco taxes in recent years and have seen a drop in youth smoking, the report said. The states include California, where a 50-cent-a-pack increase was pushed through in 1998; Alaska, with a 71-cent increase enacted in 1997; and Oregon, with a 30-cent hike the same year.

    Washington's Department of Revenue estimates that its proposed tax increase would generate $219 million over the next 18 months.

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