Juneau triples tax on cigarettes

JUNEAU — The Juneau Assembly has tripled a tax on cigarettes, with the intent that people will think twice before shelling out more than $10 for 20 smokes.

The Assembly on Monday night approved increasing the local tax to $3 a pack, up from the current $1. With an existing 5 percent sales tax and a $2 state tax, an average pack will now exceed $10, the Juneau Empire reported.

The assembly approved the hike as an excise tax instead of a sales tax that would have had to go to voters for approval.

As an excise tax, its stated purpose must be for something other than raising revenue. The ordinance says the purpose is to reduce the use of tobacco products, especially among young people.

An opponent of the tax, Joe Lassiter, cited statistics from an Alaska risk behavior study that show 42 percent of smokers live in households below the poverty level and about 45 percent do not have high school diplomas.

“You are taxing mainly the poor and the uneducated here,” he said.