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Montgomery council OKs cigar tax County first in state to pass such a measure; smokeless tobacco included


The Montgomery County Council became the first jurisdiction in the state to approve a tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco yesterday.

The measure, which will take effect in six months, taxes large cigars at 6 cents apiece, small cigars at 3 cents apiece and snuff or pipe tobacco at 36 cents per 1.5 ounces. Chewing tobacco is taxed at 36 cents per 3 ounces.

The Baltimore City Council is expected to give final approval next month to a bill that would charge wholesale cigar dealers 18 to 36 cents for each cigar sold in the city.

The Montgomery council rejected a proposal to require the 900 vendors in the county to buy stamps for all their products in favor of an auditing system by county employees.

Administering Montgomery's tax is expected to cost more than half of what it will raise. Local officials project it will cost the county $265,000 to collect $405,000 in revenue, which will be used to pay for anti-smoking programs aimed at teen-agers.

Several council members said they were concerned that a tax in Montgomery would compel residents to buy tobacco elsewhere.

Council member Michael L. Subin, a Silver Spring Democrat, warned that the tax would become "Wayne's revenge," a reference to Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

The majority on the nine-member panel said the tax would provide money for anti-smoking programs.

County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who proposed the legislation, said the council's vote put Montgomery "at the forefront of efforts to curb teen use of tobacco." He will sign the bill into law Tuesday.

A supporter of the measure, Vincent DeMarco of the Maryland Children's Initiative, said the vote sends a message to Baltimore and to the state.

"This gives a major boost to pass a cigarette tax in Annapolis," he said. "The clear message to the legislature is to do what the local jurisdictions cannot: pass a $1.50-a-pack tax on cigarettes."

State law prohibiting local governments from imposing a tax on cigarettes does not apply to cigars or pipe and smokeless tobacco.

Pub Date: 12/16/98

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