ANNAPOLIS – An overwhelming majority of Maryland voters support a “substantial increase” in the state cigarette tax, according to results of a poll commissioned by consumer organization Maryland Citizen Action.
Seventy percent of respondents said that they either supported or strongly supported a tax increase, while 23 percent were either opposed or strongly opposed.
“In the past, people were saying, `You should do this, it’s the right thing to do,’ but they weren’t saying it as strongly,” said Eric Gally, spokesman for Smoke Free Maryland, a coalition including health departments and anti-tobacco groups.
Maryland Citizen Action, although not a part of the coalition, supported a cigarette tax in the last session, according to spokesman Vincent DeMarco.
The state tax on cigarettes is now 36 cents a pack. A bill doubling the tax, which Gov. Parris N. Glendening supported, never emerged from the House committee to which it was assigned. Neither did a second bill, which would have raised the tax by $1 a pack.
The poll, conducted by Celinda Lake of Lake, Sosin, Snell, Perry & Associates, Inc., surveyed 602 randomly selected people considered likely to vote and had a margin of error of 4 percent in either direction. The question on cigarette taxes was as follows:
“The State Legislature is considering a comprehensive proposal that would substantially increase the cigarette tax in order to reduce teen smoking in Maryland and use the money to fund important children’s programs. Do you favor or oppose such a proposal, or are you undecided?”
The poll also asked questions about preferences in the upcoming governor’s race. Views on the tobacco tax tended to correlate with candidate choice.
Of those who supported the increase, 56 percent said they would vote for Glendening, while 57 percent of those who opposed it said they would vote for Ellen Sauerbrey, the 1994 GOP standard bearer and likely ’98 challenger.
Overall, 46 percent of respondents would vote to re-elect Glendening over Sauerbrey. Another 33 percent said they would vote for Sauerbrey, with 20 percent undecided. The poll found Glendening’s support ranging from 45 percent in metropolitan Baltimore to 49 percent in Western Maryland. Sauerbrey’s support ranged from 37 percent in the Washington suburbs to 29 percent in Western Maryland. On the Eastern Shore, Glendening led Sauerbrey 48 percent to 33 percent. -30-