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Debate over higher tobacco taxes lights up at hearing

SALEM, Oregon — Taxes and other restrictions on tobacco products and e-cigarettes would go up under a package of bills in the legislature.

The tax on tobacco would go up $2, e-cigarettes and cigars would be included in the tax and cigars costing less than $3 individually would have to be sold in packs of 20. Oregon’s current tax is one of the lowest in the U.S., but the increase would raise it to one of the highest.

Governor Kate Brown said they want to reduce tobacco consumption.

“Increase health and save lives,” Brown added.

Money from the tax would fund the Oregon Health Plan.  Jonathan Polonsky, chief executive officer of Plaid Pantry Stories, said the increased taxes are unfair.

“Revenue increases should be done fairly and progressively from all citizens,” Polonsky said.

The increased tax would raise $173 million a year.  The bills remain in a House of Representatives committee.

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