NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennesseans could see lower prices in grocery stores if one bill introduced by Nashville Democrats gets passed.
Rep. Bo Mitchell and Sen. Heidi Campbell have introduced legislation that would eliminate the 4% state sales tax on food for human consumption and instead increase the tax on cigarettes by nearly 200%.
Senate Bill 1522/House Bill 1438 would forever exempt groceries from sales tax, which is currently set at 4% of the sales price of goods, while increasing the sales tax on cigarettes from $0.03 per cigarette to $0.0835 per cigarette and increasing the tax on other tobacco products from 6.6% to 17%.
Per the text of the bill, lawmakers cite a statistic from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids that estimate $2.67 billion in smoking-related healthcare costs in Tennessee and note that “each taxpayer in Tennessee is paying the toll for smoking and tobacco use through taxes and increased health insurance premiums” at an average of $1,116 per household, “even for households that have never touched a cigarette.”
Further, lawmakers say increasing the tobacco and cigarette tax “may reduce” their usage as well as “improve overall health and ultimately save money for all Tennesseans,” while at the same time reducing the sales tax on food at the grocery store could “achieve significant health benefits without increasing the overall tax burden on hardworking Tennesseans.”
Cigarettes are taxed individually in Tennessee. For a standard pack of 20 cigarettes, 60 cents of the total price comes from the state-levied tax. If the bill passes, $1.67 of the price of a pack of cigarettes in the state would be due to state sales tax.
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For cigars, stogies and snuff, as well as other smokeable tobacco products, the tax increase would apply to the “wholesale price,” just as it does in current state law.
There is not currently any tax on “smokeless tobacco products.”
If passed, the law would take effect July 1. The bill has been assigned to the House Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee as of Feb. 7.
Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.
What lawmakers had to say about: Abortion Ban Clarification | Marijuana Reform | Transgender Therapy and LGBTQ+ Rights | Dept. of Children’s Services | Education | Crime/Public Safety | More
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