Colorado’s already oppressive tobacco tax could get worse if a petition submitted to the Secretary of State’s office yesterday gets certified and approved by voters on the November ballot.

A group known as Campaign for a Healthy Colorado submitted more than 165,000 signatures in support of getting Initiative #143 included as part of the fall election, which seeks to raise the tobacco tax by 22% of the manufacturer’s list price and the cigarette tax by $1.75 per pack of cigarettes. The Secretary of State’s office will now conduct a a 5 percent random sample of submitted signatures to determine whether the proposals meet the threshold to make the ballot, which is 98,492 valid voter signatures. The results of that sample must be announced by Sept. 7.

Currently, cigar and other non-cigarette tobacco products are taxed at 40% of the manufacturer’s invoiced price. Should the initiative pass, that would jump to 62%. For a cigar with an MSRP of $9.50, the pre-sales tax price at the register would jump from $13.30 to $15.39 by halfwheel estimates.

Cigarettes would jump from $0.84 tax on a 20-count pack to $2.59.

The group says that the tax increase would bring in approximately $315 million to the state every year, with that money divided up between Colorado-based research to prevent and improve treatments for cancer, heart and lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and youth mental health; tobacco education, prevention, and cessation programs for Colorado youth and adults; medical and mental health care for 500,000 Colorado veterans; increased access to health care in rural and underserved areas; training and repayment student debt for medical professionals in rural and underserved areas; and $34 million to expand access to youth mental health services.

Update (Aug. 22, 2016) — Colorado’s Secretary of State, Wayne Williams, announced today that enough signatures have been verified by his office to qualify Initiative No. 143 for the Nov. 8 ballot. 

This story was originally published on Aug. 9, 2016.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.