After passing the House, the S. Carolina Senate voted 41-1 to raise the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack, the Post and Courier reported May 6. At seven cents per pack, S. Carolina currently has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation, from a national average of $1.41.
The bill now rests with Gov. Mark Sanford, who vetoed similar legislation two years ago, and is expected to do so again. The House came up 20 votes short of a veto override in May 2008. Polls indicated there might be strength enough this year for a veto-override on a 30-cent tax, but probably not for the 50-cent increase that passed.
However, according to Kelly J. Davis, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative, research by the Campagin for Tobacco-Free Kids indicated a 50-cent tax would stop 23,000 S. Carolina children from smoking and convince another 12,800 adults to quit. “The public support,” she said, “is there for this legislation.”
If passed, the tax is expected to generate $136 million earmarked primarily for future Medicaid expenses, with $10 million set aside for prevention, quitting programs, and cancer research, and another $1 million for marketing agricultural products.