Expectations were that domestic manufacturers would need less tobacco in 2011 due to increased cigarette taxes and in anticipation of implementation of FDA regulation. With the 2010 crop down only 15 percent, but contracted volume perhaps down 20 percent, excess supply was problematic for the 2010 market.

A poll released recently by the North Carolina Alliance for Health finds two-thirds of North Carolina’s voters would support raising the cigarette tax by $1 a pack to cut the state’s budget deficit  

According to the survey, raising the tobacco tax is the only option for addressing the budget shortfall favored by a majority of voters. While 62 percent support increasing the tobacco tax as a budget balancing measure, support jumps to 66 percent when some of the revenue is used to fund public health measures.       

“At a time when North Carolina is dealing with a huge budget deficit, voters across the state understand raising the tobacco tax is a smart way to tackle this problem and, more importantly, protect our kids from smoking,” said Pam Seamans, executive director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health.

In the summer of 2010, several states raised tobacco taxes as a means to help reign in soaring government costs. In the Deep South, South Carolina raised state taxes from 7 cents a pack to 57 cents a pack. Comparable taxes in Virginia and North Carolina remain at 30 cents and 45 cents, respectively.

In New York, the same round of summer 2010 tax increases bumped the cost of a pack of cigarettes in the New York state to $9.20 and in New York City to a staggering $11 a pack.

The proverbial handwriting appears to be on the wall for North Carolina and other tobacco-growing states. Finding ways to reduce budget shortfalls have become a way of life for state legislators and cigarette smokers appear to be an easy target.

rroberson@farmpress.com