Virginia Cigarette Tax Remains Lowest in Nation

Virginia Cigarette Tax Remains Lowest in Nation

Opportunity for increase in cigarette tax blows up in smoke.

Dale Stein and the McLean Citizens Association couldn’t even raise a match before legislators in Richmond extinguished a possible increase in the cigarette tax for Fairfax County.

This week, Sen. Barbara Favola’s proposed legislation to increase the cigarette tax failed to pass committee. McLean Citizens Association was poised to vote on its resolution to support her bill and increase cigarette tax on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

“Virginia imposes a state cigarette excise tax of 30 cents per pack -- the lowest of all states,” according to the resolution that McLean Citizens Association would have voted on if the General Assembly hadn’t already killed Favola’s legislation. “The federal government imposes a cigarette excise tax of $1.01 per pack.”

Maryland’s tax is $2 per pack, the national average is $1.61 and New York imposes a $4 per pack tax, according to Stein’s research and MCA documents.

Favola’s bill would have increased the cigarette tax in Fairfax and Arlington from 30 to 60 cents. With the increase, Virginia still would have ranked 46th of the 50 states on the amount of tax charged on a pack of cigarettes.

“Under state law only two counties are permitted to have cigarette taxes, Fairfax and Arlington,” said Stein. But taxes can be no higher than the state tax.

Favola requested the change so funds raised could be dedicated to education. McLean Citizens Association wanted to establish a precedent for giving public schools an additional source of revenue and to “diversify the tax base.”

“The benefits of such legislation, if approved, would encourage healthier lifestyles,” according to MCA’s proposed resolution.

Similar legislation is almost always killed in committee, said Stein.

“I contacted her after this happened to get her read on why this was killed.

“They consistently veto tax increases,” said Stein.

“I asked, ‘Should we nonetheless go with another resolution,’” said Stein, committee chair of McLean Citizens’ Association’s budget and taxation committee. “I think I got a very tactful ‘no.’”