Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Robert Phillips is urging a $1 per pack cut to the state’s cigarette tax. Meanwhile, the Ocean State’s Independent governor, former Republican U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee, is pushing for a 4-cent tobacco tax increase.
Phillips’ move constitutes a renewal of a similar effort last year, which failed to gain traction or be put to a vote. This time around, the proposed cut has benefited from a House Finance Committee hearing.
Lawmakers are scrutinizing the legislation, which Phillips believes could benefit the state by providing an incentive for smokers to purchase cigarettes within Rhode Island, rather than driving to neighboring Massachusetts or Connecticut (where the cigarette tax is lower) to buy smokes. Anti-smoking advocates oppose the move.
Given Rhode Island’s tiny size and close proximity to the other states, however, Phillips’ idea may have merit. The Ocean State is only about 40 miles wide by 50 miles long, making a drive to neighboring states to stock up on cheaper cigarettes a highly geographically viable option. Rhode Island’s cigarette tax currently ranks as the second highest in the nation, at $3.46 per pack.