Governor's Proposed State Cigarette Tax Increase

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Knoxville (WVLT) - To fund these new initiatives, Governor Bredesen proposed using some state lottery funds, as well as an increase in the state's cigarette tax, which is now among the lowest in the nation.

Volunteer TV's Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard with more on Mr. Bredesen's argument for the tax.

Monday night, Governor Bredesen presented a four part strategy for strengthening Tennessee's public education system.

But what he proposed, would cost $200 million more a year than what's in the budget and that's where the cigarette tax comes in.

The Governor is proposing what he calls a modest increase in the state's cigarette tax.

That's 40 cents per pack.

He says, with or without the increase, Tennessee's budget is sound and balanced.

The initiatives he proposed are funded.

But he says, the argument for a cigarette tax is straighforward, Tennessee schools need more money.

And Mr. Bredesen says, 90% of the revenue from the increase would go into education.

East Towne Urgent Care Dr. Jay Hammett says a cigarette tax increase could spur current smokers to quit, and deter teenagers from ever picking up the habit.

"Absolutely. I think if the price of cigarettes goes up, it certainly deters the purchase of cigarettes. People don't have as much disposable income as they once did," says Dr. Jay Hammett.

"Our cigarette tax is among the lowest in the nation, it has room to grow, and even after such an increase, will still be well below the national average. And not least, higher prices for cigarettes definitely reduces teenage smoking," says Governor Phil Bredesen.

If passed, 90% of the revenue from the increase would go into education, with the remaining 10% funding agriculture and anti-smoking programs in Tennessee.

The Governor says, with or without the increase, TennCare and Cover Tennessee are funded.

Currently, one-quarter of the state budget goes to funding TennCare.