On Thursday, the Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill that would send a tobacco tax increase to voters in 2020 should it make it through the Senate, where it is scheduled to receive its first reading today.
The bill, HB 2270, passed by a vote of 39-21. The bill originated with Gov. Kate Brown, who has sought to increase the tax on tobacco products for some time. However, some legislators, even those who support the idea in principle, have been wary about imposing a new tax on their constituents. While the bill appeared to lose traction earlier in the session, an amendment was added that would send the matter to voters if it were to be approved by a three-fifths majority in both chambers.
Included in the bill is a $2-per-pack increase in the tax on cigarettes, going from $1.33 to $3.33 per pack, as well as defining e-cigarettes and other nicotine vaping products as tobacco products in order to impose the state’s tax rate of 65 percent on those products.
For cigar smokers, the bill would remove the 50-cent cap on the cigar tax and subject them to the full brunt of the state’s tax rate. In the case of a cigar with an MSRP of $9.50, the price would jump from $10.50 at the register to $15.68, by halfwheel estimates. Additionally, it would require that all cigars sold individually in the state have a minimum wholesale price of $3, unless they are sold in a package of four that has a minimum wholesale price of $12.
Should the bill pass, it would go onto the ballot at the next regular general election, and if enacted by voters, would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.